Musical Prodigy Emily Bear: What Explains Maturity and Talent in Children? | Connecticut Public Radio

Musical Prodigy Emily Bear: What Explains Maturity and Talent in Children?

Credit MaxiuB/flickr creative commons

As a result of repeated sound exposure while in the womb, it now appears a baby can later recognize these sounds, even the theme song of its mother's favorite television show. In other words, there is "neural memory." This is what we learned from a Science magazine story, examining the key findings of a Swedish study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (The author is cognitive neuroscientist Eino Partanen.) Does this explain something about the child musical prodigy? 

There are many theories about where musical prodigies come from, but more work needs to be done. After the Swedish study, Dr. Partanen says there is no definitive evidence that music exposure of a particular type will produce a musical genius or even a musician; in fact, he says, music must be used sensibly since it can disrupt the sleep cycle of the fetus or infant.

This hour, we interview musical prodigy Emily Bear, 12, who was discovered and mentored by Quincy Jones beginning when she was six. We talk to Emily and to her co-mentor, talented orchestrator Chris Jahnke.

While you can sample Emily Bear's music here through our YouTube post, you can hear her in person. She is the featured jazz soloist August 17 weekend for the George Flynn Classical Concert series in Clinton at 4:00 pm. Tickets are free, though must be secured in advance. Miss Bear will also perform a classical piano piece in October for The New Haven Symphony Orchestra

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  • Emily Bear is a pianist and composer.
  • Chris Jahnke is an orchestrator. 
  • Dr. Nancy Horn is a New Haven psychologist and frequent show contributor. 


  • “Gne Gne,” Montefiori Cocktail
  • “Hot Peppers,” Emily Bear
  • “Blue Note,” Emily Bear
  • “Q,” Emily Bear