ANTHONY E. KEMP & JANET MILLS
This chapter discusses the identification of musical potential in childhood and considers the impact of an environment that is nurturing and stimulating. It addresses the place of musical ability tests as well as personality assessment and suggests that while these are areas for the teacher's consideration, they may prove to be of minor significance in any formal selection processes. The chapter describes the manner in which parents and teachers might consider musical potential, not as something finite but as something that may gradually emerge during childhood. The question of children's potential to play various instruments is considered as well as the existence of certain stereotypes prevalent in musical circles. Suggestions are offered to parents and teachers so they may become aware of a child's potential as soon as it becomes observable and nurture it in a facilitating environment.
“This child is musical, you know. ” How often have we heard an adult—a proud parent, an elderly relation, a friend of the family—say something like that! What do they mean? And are they right?
The chances are that the adult is trying to say something positive about the child, something that marks him or her out as more special than other children in a manner that is wholesome or at least harmless. Being a musical child is, in the eyes of an interested adult, normally good. The adult thinks that something has been spotted in the child that destines him or her for greatness as some kind of musician or at least indicates that it is worth giving the child opportunities that may be denied to other children, for example, lessons on a musical instrument. In other words, the adult is suggesting that the child has what we shall describe in this book as musical potential: a latent, but as yet unrealized, capacity to do something musical—for example, play the flute.
But is the adult right? Is it possible to spot that one child has more potential than another to play flute or piano or trombone before either has been given a