Dream Theater keyboardist Jordan Rudess spoke in an interview with The Metal Voice and explained how classic music shaped his musical opinion the time when he enteredn Musical School at the age of 9. He said:
“Musical prodigies are an interesting point, especially these days. Maybe in the position that I’m in, that every time somebody does something really cool as a young prodigy they send it to me. ‘Jordan, look at this 9 year old writing opera! Look at this person that plays the piano blindfolded!’
I think it’s all great, but I went to school with the kids who were 9 years old and writing operas. [Laughs] You know, an amazing pianist at the age of 8 and 10 and it was all around me. And what I realized – first of all it’s wonderful. Second of all, a lot of these people will play the piano incredibly well at 9 years old and when they get to be 15, 17, 19, they’ll be like everybody else, perhaps.
Because they developed early, they just matured early. Maybe they’re like coming from Japan or Korea where they’re extremely focused and they usually learn these instruments really, really young and develop an incredible skill at a very early age. But aside from that – I’m not saying it’s not cool to see somebody really young who plays really well, I’m kind of pointing out some realities about that.
But the thing that was interesting about me and that environment is – yes, you’re surrounded by amazingly talented people and you’re kind of like just another one of the crowd.
However, the one thing that I enjoyed and that was fun for me, that made me kind of stand out a little bit is that I have always been an improviser. I didn’t just play classical music, I played a lot of stuff.
And I would turn the other students on to what I was doing, so we’d sneak into the practice room down the hall and I’d play some boogie-woogie or I’d do an improvisation on some theme we were studying on the theory class.
That kind of musical talent was something that everybody, even so many of the students, were really interested in and would really get a kick out of. It was always something in Juilliard when I went there that we’d almost have to be a little bit hidden because it was so strict.
It’s not like when Mozart was a kid and classical musicians were improvising and Mozart would do an improvisation and people would be blown away and he would play one of his pieces. But there would be a section where he could improvise.
It’s a very different scene in the classical world to get the very, very tight. So personally as a musician I was interested in all these other things, it was always a little bit of a challenge to keep that going.”
You can watch the entire interview from here.