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October 26, 2010

Latest threat in conducting world comes from a three-year-old

In the world of athletic competition, there's always someone younger and faster just around the corner to challenge the current record. It's not much different in music. There always seems to be a younger prodigious instrumentalist every year, someone who can play louder and faster than the last sensation did.

Lately, it looks like the conducting field is the new breeding ground for early manifestations of talent. You've got Gustavo Dudamel taking the helm of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and guest conducting all over the best places before he turns 30. Locally, we've got 17-year-old Ilyich Rivas, who just led the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in a subscription concert, a year or so after a gig with the Atlanta Symphony. Well, big deal.

Thanks to an NPR post by Tom Huizenga and the assistance of You Tube (how long did it take us to learn about talented kids before YouTube?), I now know about a three-year-old named Jonathan who has a pretty good handle on Beethoven's Fifth. And here I thought that the five-year-old on YouTube leading a recording of "Rite of Spring" was going to be impossible to beat in the kids-conduct-the-darnedest-things contest.

I love BSO music director Marin Alsop's comment to Tom Huizenga about

the Beethoven maestro-ini: "They're getting younger and younger all the time. Pretty soon even potty training will not be required for music director candidates."

I don't know what makes some kids so tuned into music so early. Sure, there's the imitation factor at work, but Jonathan really does seem to have gotten a good deal of the score into his ears, and seems to know what a conductor does besides keep time. And, hey, it takes a remarkable gift to deal with a runny nose and the finale of Beethoven's Fifth at the same time.

So, in case you haven't seen hi, heeeeeeeerrre's Jonathan:

Posted by Tim Smith at 10:37 AM | | Comments (3)


Who says young people aren't enthusiastic about classical music? Thanks for posting this. Very cute and fun.

The kid has musicality! (Which is more than we could say about some of this season's contestants on DWTS ...)

Jonathan is more musical than any of the conductors i've seen at the BSO this season.

Ouch. TS

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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