Perhaps you saw the recent 60 Minutes segment about Alma Deutscher, the 12-year old musical prodigy, who was just bursting with music in her head. Just this afternoon, I decided to take a break from folding 300 napkins for my condo’s upcoming Christmas party, and turned on my Apple TV. I’m used to watching 60 Minutes on Sundays anyway, and even though this episode was a re-run, I eagerly watched it again. Alma is a pianist, violinist, and a composer—she has even written an opera! And she is only 12 years old. Click here to view the 60 Minutes segment about Alma Deutscher.
Her moment of discovery about music was at age three, when she heard a melody by Johann Strauss, and said to her mother, “How can music be so beautiful?!”
Something jumped out at me, though, this time when I saw the interview, because Anna’s parents said that they had discovered a book by Robert Gjerdingen, a professor of music at Northwestern University’s School of Music.
The book is called Music in the Galant Style, a study of how composers learned a method of composition called partamenti, a tool used to train the greatest composers from Mozart to Debussy and Stravinsky. For a comprehensive article about Anna, including information about the book, read “The Inner Workings of Alma Deutscher’s Musical Genius.”
The segment below shows Alma improvising a whole piece on four notes, picked at random out of a hat, by host Scott Pelley.
Gjerdingen… the name seemed awfully familiar to me. I once had an organ student named Bob Gjerdingen—but that was years and years ago. Could it be the same person? I remember Bob as a superb musician, and I even asked him to turn pages for me during concerts and festival services. I remember that when he took organ lessons with me, he cut “windows” into the sides of his leather shoes to more easily find the pedals!
Anyway, on a whim, I did a Google search on Robert Gjerdingen, and look what came up on the faculty page of Northwestern!
Look at that—1980, University of Hawaii! So perhaps he is one and the same person to whom I taught organ lessons, 37 years ago! I haven’t actually confirmed this, but it is exciting to even think that it might be the same Bob Gjerdingen. [UPDATE: Yes, it’s the same Bob Gjerdingen! See the comments below.]
And talk about improvisation, this morning when I watched Evensong from Duke University Chapel where former student, Joey Fala, is the Organ Scholar, I thoroughly enjoyed his improvisation after the final hymn on “Have thine own way, Lord (Adelaide Pollard)”. See if you don’t agree that this is brilliant! I have it cued up to where Joey starts playing.
I am so looking forward to my visit with Joey in April 2018!