On Monday morning, I was on the treadmill running, and I came across this article about a child in Atlanta who has perfect pitch.
I've always believed that perfect pitch was far more rare than some of us believe.
Maybe it's because mine isn't perfect! :-)
I certainly appreciate the information that expert researchers in our field contribute to our work, but doing it is not a passion for me.
So, today, I am asking for data from YOU based on your experience!
Here is mine!
I've often said that my research lab is my middle school choral music classroom where I've taught well over 10,000 students over the course of my career.
During that time, to my knowledge, I've never encountered a child who had perfect pitch.
Maybe someday soon?!
The reason I am pretty certain that I've not encountered perfect pitch is because of how I structured my sight singing program, S-Cubed. I didn't follow the traditional model of singing in the key of C, then F, then G, and so on.
I didn't follow that model because early in my career, I noticed that my middle school beginners struggled reading notes below the staff on ledger lines. Starting the teaching of sight singing in the key of C seemed to created a barrier to learning. I also noticed that my beginners struggled reading notes when the stem directions changed. For example, going from A to B on the treble clef...Some of the children thought the B was lower than the A simply because the stem pointed down.
For that, and many other reasons that are too detailed to cover here, I decided to create a program that at least, in part, would focus on training their young eyes on how to interpret the "dots" and "stems" regardless of key or key signature in the early days of their training and to do it all while using what I call "varied but comfortable DO". This concept means that, in the beginning of their training, we choose to have our beginners sight sing in keys that are comfortable for their voices (usually C, C#, D, D#, E) regardless of the notes that are written on the page.
Don't panic...we don't do that permanently! After several weeks, we move to the real keys and use moveable DO!
One of the other reasons I use "varied but comfortable DO" early in the program is because middle school children whine "This is too high" when they try to sight sing in the keys of F and G. So, I removed the obstacle. When our beginners are learning this new and complex skill of sight singing, they are already self-conscious. If they are worried about it being "too high", they stop focusing on building the skill sets we are striving to teach, and they shut down.
...At least that was what I experienced.
...And almost every sight singing method I encountered in my early days of teaching went from the key of C to F to G and gradually added more sharps/flats to the key signature, and for singers, I realized it wasn't necessary. Later? Absolutely....but there was no need to follow the instrumental model for young singers in the early days of learning to sight sing. We don't teach conjugation to them while they are learning to speak their first complete sentences, so it made sense to me to build other skills first.
During the time the students are sight singing notes like high A on the treble clef without any accidentals in the key signature, there hasn't been a single middle school student in 25 years who has said "Mr. Duncan...is that the real DO?" Or "That isn't the right pitch."
When I made the decision not to use the real keys in their early training with sight singing, I didn't think about the students who might have perfect pitch. I was only focused on how to help my true beginners to be less confused about turning those dots into sound.
Once my students have developed strong skill sets and problem solving techniques, then we learn the theory behind the key signatures, and all of the things that singers need as they work toward becoming literate, educated musicians.
So, here is my question for all of the middle school music educators out there who've encountered hundreds and even thousands of middle school students:
Have you encountered students who had perfect pitch? If so, how many times have you encountered students with this incredible gift?