I have been working as the voice teacher once a week for about five weeks at Blend School for the Blind/Van Ness Elementary in Hollywood.
The students have written a musical that they will perform this week. The students themselves vary in musical strength. Some of the children are shy, particularly as performing is new to them. So, often my focus is on diction, projection, posture and body language.
One little girl, Natalie, likes to play piano chords while we warm up. Two weeks ago, I asked her to focus on good posture to help her singing. So, she did not get to play piano that week but I promised her she could the next week.
Last week, when it was Natalie’s turn for a voice lesson, I remembered I had promised she could play piano before we sang. I knew she had a good ear – when we do vocal warm ups she is able to pick out the notes we are singing on the piano.
Natalie sat down at the piano and proceeded to play every song from their musical. She also sang the lyrics to each song while she played and figured out chords to link one song to the next. I felt as if I were listening to the overture of the musical. I was not expecting her piano skills to be so advanced because I had only heard her play a few chords in the past. She appears to have taught herself all the songs by ear and to have made up her own chordal transitions to each song. I don’t think she reads music. I was blown away by her performance. I asked her if her teacher, Ms. Bell, had taught her but she said “no.” I said “Wow! You play better than I do.” She said “I know.” Later, I told Ms. Bell about her playing all the songs from the show and asked if she had helped her at all but Ms. Bell said she hadn’t and that she believes Natalie is a savant. I suggested Natalie play her medley of songs as the overture.
This young girl is obviously extremely gifted. I hope she will have the opportunity to have the musical education she deserves.