John, I also wonder how far Mozart would have gone if he hadn't been beaten by his father if he got things wrong. That would have put me off composing, but then the attractions of wealth and fame are also powerful motivators. And sometimes the desire to express oneself can't be denied.
One big factor often overlooked in discussing careers in the arts or indeed any field, is the power of self-belief. I teach a weekly class to children who have been expelled from school. The place they are in is their last resort. Some are there because they have been bad, and some because they were dumped on the streets by their parents (or worse). The thing most lacking is usually the belief that they are bright enough to do anything with their lives. So it gives me great pleasure to say "well, we've got ten minutes left, I'm going to teach you to read music" and then do it.
Sounds like a great thing to be doing.
Despite all my earlier posts, I'm not exactly sure about the status of talent. For example, you could have all the skills of Michael Jordan, and work just as hard, but if you stop growing at 5'6", you're outa luck. In discussing Woods, I'm a golfer, and no matter how hard I tried, or how early I started, or how good my coaches were, I could never have approached his level because I simply don't have the hand speed. While there are studies that show even athletic abilities can be improved substantially, they can't be improved enough to help me match Woods. So, does Woods have inborn talent? Well, he has inborn something. I personally couldn't hit a 300-yard drive with a 60-inch driver.
I suspect talent has to do with some intelligence level (the sweet spot seems to be an IQ of 120-140 or so), combined with whatever physical abilities you need for your activity, plus good training and work ethic. But why would somebody work so insanely hard? I think it's because somehow, they get some serious reinforcement for the activity, some kind of big reward. With children, I think they tend to get rewards from pleasing their parents (or teachers), and if their parents are rapturous about Little Freddie's violin playing, Little Freddie will work harder at the violin. For adults, things get harder, because it's so much harder to get your 10,000 hours even if you have the underlying abilities, because most adults also *want to have a life.* Wanting to have a life is the great leveler of talent, IMHO. My daughter, for example, was a fine flute player, one of the best in the Twin Cities...until she started dating in eleventh grade. She was still good after that, but there wasn't any question of becoming an orchestra professional -- she decided she'd rather have a life. Now she's happily married with two kids.
Another one of the fascinating studies in one of those two books was a Czech guy (I think) who was fascinated by the question of talent vs. training, so he advertised for a wife who would agree to train any children they had to become chess masters. A woman volunteered, they had three girls, and guess what -- two of the girls became international masters. This was starting from scratch...
I wonder what would happen if somebody set up a school like yours for troubled children of normal intelligence, and said, "We're going to teach them most of the usual reading and writing stuff, but we're going to pound them with business and bookkeeping/accounting skills, from the time they're in first grade, so that by the time they graduate from high school, they'll have the skills of a CPA." The intention being to break them out of the cycle of poverty by giving them very marketable and well-paid skills, so that even if they couldn't afford to go on to college, they'd have no trouble getting a good job. You'd have to take something away from them (the possibility of becoming an artist or a musician) in return for other abilities...Sounds cold, but it would be *very* interesting experiment, IMHO.