Behold, the musical parade of young role models trumpeting that it’s cool (and sometimes lucrative) to develop a passion for music.
- Justin Bieber got his first drum kit for his second birthday and was a multi-instrumentalist before he turned 13.
- Taylor Swift started playing guitar at 13 and had a Top Ten hit at age 16.
Throughout recorded history, dedicated kiddos have felt a spark that lit a fire. And your classroom might be just the tinderbox for it all to begin.
Here are but a few musicians who might provide inspiration to your young learners:
- At age four, virtuoso Yo-Yo Ma grew tired of the violin (yes, at four) and switched to cello and piano. It’s paid off; he now owns a cello worth more than $2.5 million.
- Latin superstar Shakira wrote her first song at age 8 and signed a recording contract at 13.
- In 1998, eleven-year-old Lil Bow Wow was signed to record his first rap album. (He’s since dropped the Lil. Good call, Bow Wow.)
- Mandolin wizard Chris Thile (formerly with Nickel Creek) recorded his first album at age 12.
- Little Stevie Wonder’s debut album was titled The 12 Year Old Genius. Who can argue with that?
- As a thirteen–year-old, John Philips Sousa was such an excellent musician that he was invited to join a traveling circus band.
- As elementary students, the Van Halen brothers formed a bandcalled the Broken Combs and played in the school lunchroom. Back then, Alex played saxophone and Eddie was on piano. Gravitating toward rock, they switched to drums and guitar respectively.
- Fun fact: their dad was named for Ludwig von Beethoven (who published his first sonatas as a 13-year-old) and Eddie’s son is named Wolfgang in honor of Mozart (who wrote his first symphony age 7).
- George Harrison was only 14 when he joined fellow teenagers John Lennon and Paul McCartney in a group that would become The Beatles.
- Likewise, Larry Mullen, Jr. was 14 when he posted a note on a bulletin board that would recruit his future U2 band mates who were also in their mid-teens.
Just think of it: one of your students might become a superstar and give you a shout-out at the Grammys! Or at least you can take great satisfaction in feeding the tinderbox that guides students to love to learn music.
Do you have other favorite young musician stories?
Do you ever use examples like these to inspire your students?