Denny Sila is the father and coach of Indonesian jazz prodigy Joey Alexander, who is perhaps most well known for his DC performance that garnered viral attention. There’s an art to nurturing young talent, and Denny will tell you all about that below.
It would be difficult not to attribute much of your son’s success to your own efforts as his coach/mentor. How do you feel about that sort of claim?
Joey has a natural gift for music, but I have spent many years working with him to develop his skills, techniques, and his personal “sound.” Part of my process is to make sure that the progress both skillful and joyful. For gifted children especially, I believe that the element of fun is important to enabling the child to reach his full potential.
Parents of renowned young people often make headlines for their own antics. Individuals like LaVar Ball are often criticized for their own statements and behaviors. As a parent and mentor of a talented, famous kid, what do you think of people like LaVar Ball?
I know very little about sports or about Mr. Ball. From what I have read, he strikes me as a great coach and mentor to his sons. I imagine that he and I face some of the issues, in terms of balancing our responsibilities as a coach and mentor to gifted children, and maintaining a professional career as a coach/mentor. Sometimes, that requires putting our own ego aside. At the end of the day, professionals like Mr. Ball and me need to remember that our mentees are children too. Part of being an effective coach/mentor is to be a positive example, and behind humble is part of that.
How has the nature of your relationship with your son changed since his success?
Very little about our relationship has changed. I still work with him largely the same way that I did when I first noticed his gift, when he was around 6 years old and we were living in Indonesia. My coaching and mentoring techniques involve giving him a certain amount of structure/schedule, but providing him with the freedom to explore, learn, and improvise within those schedules. For a child artist in particular, I think that it’s important to give him the proper framework and nurturing to grow, but at the same time, allow him to grow and develop his own identity. The biggest thing that has changed about my relationship with Joey is that, now that he’s 14, he’s taller than I am.
What advice would you give to the parents of other talented children?
Nurturing a gift is important, but equally, or perhaps more important, is to coach and mentor the child’s character. The child needs to be able to learn how to sustain his gift, and if the coach/mentor is focused solely on growing the talent, the child may be missing important aspects of his growth and development that would enable him to succeed in his career long-term. The other piece of advice I would give is to appreciate and take advantage of every opportunity.
Where do you see your son in 10 years? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
God willing, I hope that Joey is still doing what he’s doing now. He is a talented musician and he’s growing into a bright young man. As for me, I’ll continue mentoring Joey, but I also look forward to the chance to use my experience and the expertise I’ve developed to coach/mentor other talented young musicians, to help them develop the skills they will need to reach their full potential.