Gavin George: A Prodigy in the Truest Sense of the Word

The word prodigy is among the most often overused words in the English language. Media, in particular, seem to latch on to certain superlatives and use them so much that they lose their impact. Awesome. Icon. Crisis. All words which have been used to the point of having little impact. I no longer automatically click on things which are guaranteed to amaze me, stun me, or render me speechless.

Prodigy is another one of those words. I searched “YouTube prodigy” and quickly found two such offending stories. “The Next Mozart? 6-Year Old Piano Prodigy,” read one. Another read, “The 12 Most Talented And Tiny Child Prodigies Of 2013.”

Some of them are quite talented, though flashes of brilliance in a controlled setting are entirely different than sitting alone at a concert grand piano and masterfully playing an entire Beethoven piano concerto with a full orchestra.

But that is just what I heard in the recording of then nine-year-old Gavin George playing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with the Newark-Granville Symphony Orchestra in 2012. Previously, Gavin studied locally with Mary Craig Powell who describes him as an “international talent.” For more than two years he has been a student of Antonio Pompa-Baldi, a pianist whose performances you’ve likely heard on Classical 101. Pompa-Baldi holds the position of Distinguished Professor of Piano at the Cleveland Institute of Music. He is currently on tour and and had this to say about George:

“Gavin has been blessed with immense gifts from birth. He already played beautifully when I met him, although with more instinct than awareness. I believe in the three years we have been working together he became aware of the how, why, and when to do things at the piano. Another stunning improvement, and testament to his exponential growth as a musician, is that he went from playing repertoire that other kids his age could tackle (although I believe Gavin played it better than any of them), to playing repertoire that is absolutely astounding for his age. More importantly, this was surely not a development planned by me to provoke sensationalism. It is just that I knew Gavin could. He plays staples and milestones of the piano literature, the fare of the greatest virtuosos, with not only complete technical control and ease, but also musical understanding and maturity, decades beyond his age. He is a prodigious talent, and I am very happy to be working with him.”

I recently spoke with Gavin, his mother Mary, and his brother Max, who also plays.  Gavin’s parents have proceeded with caution, wanting to nurture and encourage their son’s talent without pushing. From what I can see, they are succeeding. Performance appearances are carefully chosen and spaced out, studies are maintained, (Gavin and Max are both home schooled), and both still have the opportunity to be kids. Gavin plays soccer and loves to ski. He is polite, well-spoken, and intelligent.

You can hear a bit of our conversation Friday morning at 9:00 am on Classical 101, and hear him play a portion of the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 3. Then I encourage you to make room in your schedule this weekend.

Gavin is performing this Sunday with the Newark-Granville Symphony.

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