5 Gifted Child Musicians and Their Bands

The pedagogy of musical literacy is important to childhood development. Music incorporates sensations including hearing, movement and emotionality. Music is an interactive medium that is discovered and experienced individually where supportive environments can foster musical genius at young ages. One may postulate, rhythm is instilled in utero through mother’s heartbeat, similar to a drum or other rhythmic percussion. Melodies may also be heard in utero through mother and baby physiological states via gurgles, groans, moans, voices and outside sounds, adding to the symphonic physiological symphony. The auditory cortex develops for babies at 18 weeks gestation. At 24 weeks, babies are more sensitive to sounds. At 25-26 weeks, babies respond to noise and mother’s voice. Studies have shown newborns can be calmed by playing recorded sounds from the womb.

Early Italian childhood educator Maria Montessori knew the importance of linguistic education and exposing children to modulations in sound, including the sounds of words and the human voice. Through hearing sounds and words, children learn to compare and differentiate noise. Through audible education, children learn personal aesthetics and tastes which can be applied in practical and disciplined ways (The Montessori Method, 1964).

Early music education has been researched to encode sound to enable processing through aural skills development. Active engagement produces neurological changes which correlate to process sound. These changes can develop quickly within a short period of time if aural skillbuilding is nurtured by caregivers and the child’s environment (Hallam, 2016). Here are 5 kids and their bands who were/are musically gifted and influenced by their caregivers and/or environments.

The Jackson 5/Michael Jackson (Aug 29, 1958-June 25, 2009)

Born to Joseph and Katherine Jackson in Gary, IN, Michael (MJ) was one of nine brothers, including Tito, Jermaine, Jackie and Marlon. MJ joined the Jackson 5 when he was 5 years old and became the group’s lead singer. Joseph Jackson was also the Jackson 5’s manager and physically abused his children, disciplining them in detrimental ways to enable popular music success. “Big Boy” was MJ’s first song, sung at the age of nine with the Jackson 5 and recorded on Steel Town. He continues to be remembered as the “King of Pop” who changed music history.

Foster Sylvers

Foster Emerson Sylvers was born in Los Angeles on Feb 25, 1952. Sylvers is often mistaken for MJ because of his high soulful falsetto combined with mastery of mid-tempo funk beats. Sylvers was 11 years old when he recorded his hit “Misdemeanor”, written by his brother, Leon Sylvers III in 1973. Leon and Foster later formed a band with their brothers and sisters, The Sylvers (Wikipedia). “Misdemeanor” flew to number 7 on the Billboard charts that summer, and the song would later be sampled by Big Daddy Kane.

Jr. and His Soulettes

Jr. and His Soulettes were a young group lead by Harold Moore Jr. (10), with his sisters Denise Marshall (7), Jacquelin Carol (6) and Vinta Marie (9). Originally from Oklahoma, they released their LP Psychodelic Sounds on private press in 1971 (Swan Fungus). The album is the truest form of kids soul, written, played and mixed by Jr. and His Soulettes. Moore released five 45s and one LP before experiencing puberty and breaking up the band in the late 70s (Numero). The album is gloriously low-fi, wah-wah, psychedelic funky soul and portrays the musical genius of truly gifted children.

Dina Mariana

Dina Mariana is an Indonesian pop/jazz singer and actor who began her career as a child. Mariana is often referred to as a former little singer in Jakarta because she quickly segued into teen stardom. She has released a total of 35 albums, appeared in 21 movies, and has starred in numerous soap operas and television episodes. In Sept. 2007, she released a children’s album commemorating Ramadhan.

Francis Mbarga

Also known as Francis the Great, Mbarga was 7 years old when he recorded his first album, Francis the Great. Originally from Cameroon, Mbarga resided in Paris in the 1970s with his mother and father. On his debut LP Ravissante Baby, Mbarga was backed by a team that included Michel Morose on psychedelic synth, Toto Guillaume on guitar, and the renowned Vicky Edimo arranging and playing bass, with lyrics and singing by Mbarga. His first LP has been reissued, with Mbarga’s consent, by the Hot Casa label, which includes an extensive interview with Francis the Great who is now a computer programmer.

By Karen Lee (Weekend Family Music Hour)