Featured image courtesy of joeyalexandermusic.com
So-called “child prodigies” are guaranteed sensations. No wonder TV personalities like Ellen DeGeneres pluck every “genius” musician and dancer gone-viral from the Webverse to appear on her daytime show. With the dominance of electronically-altered music, audiences today are more easily impressed by any youngling who has a smidgen of musical sensibility. The masses aww and wow! over every elementary schooler who can play a Chopin etude—though, in reality, kids like these are not uncommon.
And then there’s Joey Alexander.
Born in Bali in the city of Denpasar, twelve-year-old Joey began playing piano at the age of six when his father, an amateur musician, brought home a keyboard. Joey was a restless, active boy—perhaps, his father thought, this keyboard would be an outlet for all of that energy. When his fingers touched the keys, Joey was able to play the melody of Thelonius Monk’s “Well, You Needn’t” among other jazz standards from his father’s record collection—all by ear.
Without any formal jazz training and only a few classical piano lessons, Joey went on to develop masterful technique and a unique style that garnered attention around the world. Whereas other jazz musicians spend decades cultivating their careers, within just six years of playing, Joey Alexander has won international competitions (i.e., the improvisation contest in Odessa, Ukraine), performed at world-renown events such as the Newport Jazz Festival and Jazz at Lincoln Center, and attained two Grammy nominations for his debut album, My Favorite Things. (To listen to his rendition of “My Favorite Things,” click here.)
“Is he good for a twelve-year-old or is he just good?” asked 60 Minutes‘s Anderson Cooper, speaking to Gary Walker, the music director at jazz radio station WBGO.
“He’s just good,” Walker answers.”At any age, his language is pretty special. But at the age of twelve, you almost think, I don’t know, I might even believe in reincarnation.”
It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that Joey is just another product of stage parenting. After all, several young stars’ careers are crafted and micromanaged by their parents, who prioritize profit over their child’s happiness. Yet, after listening to Joey Alexander, it is clear that the jazz pianist has not only an extraordinary gift but a natural, overwhelming passion for music. In fact, his parents state in a 60 Minutes segment that they allowed him to teach himself the instrument without instruction or even sheet music so that he could be free to express himself. And it’s that genuine passion, that soulfulness, that has made him so very popular.
Visit Joey’s website for more videos.