Last month, CBS’s 60 Minutes featured a segment on the brilliant wunderkind Alma Deutscher. A 12 year-old from Great Britain, she is a pianist, violinst, and a composer, all at an extremely high level. In fact, in just a couple weeks, Opera San José will be presenting her adaptation of “Cinderella”. (Every performance appears to be sold out.)

If you haven’t seen it yet, watch this fascinating 13-1/2 minute interview between Deutscher and Scott Pelley.

…I wish I could have embedded the video for you to watch here, but trust me, it’s worth the extra “click”…

…Go for it. I’ll still be here in 13-1/2 minutes…

…Have you watched it yet? I think you’d like it…

In addition to being so bafflingly accomplished, there were some other remarkable things about Deutscher that jumped out at me.

  • Her earnest curiosity with the art-form. At the age of 3, she asked her parents, “How can music be so beautiful?”
  • An incredibly clear mental picture of how she wants her music performed. The interview shows her working with the Vienna Chamber Orchestra this past summer, and in just a brief moment you see her making a very detailed request of the musicians.
  • “Emotion beyond a child”, as Pelley puts it. Deutscher knows there’s ugliness in the world. She aims to share her happiness, and she wants her audiences to enjoy the performance.
  • Her self-awareness. When Pelley asks what it’s like for her to always have a melody in her head, she almost flips the interview. “…tell me Scott, how does it feel like not having melodies pop into your head?”
  • Her confidence. She mentions that people refer to her as a “Second Mozart”, and while she appreciates their good intentions, Deustcher says she would prefer to be thought of as the “First Alma”.
  • Her egalitarian view of the world. In her opera “Cinderella”, Deutscher doesn’t stick to the original Damsel-in-Distress storyline. She feels it’s demeaning that Cinderella’s small feet would be the source of the Prince’s desire. Instead, Cinderella is cast as a composer, and the Prince as a poet. They fall in love not because of physical attraction, but because Cinderella sings a setting of one of the Prince’s poems to music that she has composed.

Whether or not Deutscher decides to dedicate her adult life to music, she shows the ability to do so much good for the world in any capacity she chooses. I look forward to learning about her future pursuits–and I hope to play one of her works someday.

There are six rows in a lavender field in full bloom, and a girl with blonde hair and a black and white dress stands in the middle holding a straw hat in her right hand.

About Doug Rosenthal

No one told Douglas Rosenthal to give up playing music. Not even his patient siblings, who endured many early-morning practice sessions; even they encouraged their brother to follow his passion. As the years passed, that passion evolved from simply playing music to advocating for music, musicians, and music-lovers. Douglas is based in Washington, DC. He is the Assistant Principal Trombonist of the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra/Washington National Opera Orchestra. He currently makes his home on Capitol Hill in DC with a pug named Jake, who serves as a constant reminder to relax, eat well, and sleep plentifully.

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4 thoughts on “Emotion Beyond a Child

  1. Alma clearly feels an irresistible compulsion to create, and to share her creations. Lucky us! Her masterpiece to date is the opera Cinderella. The San Jose production was marvelous. But Alma is writing a novel which she wants to turn into a film (of course, with a soundtrack she will write). She also has some music already that she wants to turn into a musical. Meanwhile, she is being asked to perform all over the world. Her calendar for this year already has a number of very prestigious dates penciled in. As she turns 13, her parents are faced with an enormous challenge giving her the room to develop her talents to the full, while tempering her enthusiasm with a little dose of reality, all while trying to maintain some balance and a normal family life, not only for Alma, but the whole family. Guy and Elizabeth Deutscher seem extremely capable, but they need to be!

  2. I didn’t see the segment and will watch it later. What always amazes me about kids is that purity in their curiosity. Some call it naive, but I think it’s just untainted by the world and adults saying “can’t” all the time. I hope this young girl follows her bliss, wherever that may lead her.

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