NYC kid prodigies
Six New York City elementary students talk about their success in music, art, dance and more.
Thu Jul 14 2011
Michael and Jonathan Manta, 8 and 6
Howard Beach, Queens
Michael placed fourth in New York City's K--3 chess championships in 2010; Jonathan placed first in the kindergarten division.
When did you start playing chess?
MM When I was three, my mom told me how to spell the word chess, so I could look up games on the computer. I got my first set when I was six.
How often do the two of you play?
MM My brother and I share a three-hour lesson twice a week with our coach. We also practice an hour a day.
What do you like best about chess?
JM Winning trophies and plaques! We have about 100 in our room.
When you're not playing chess, what do you like to do?
JM We play soccer or Angry Birds.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
MM The world champion!
Lucy Frucht, 11
Violinist in Juilliard's Pre-College Division; has performed as a soloist with the Livingston Symphony Orchestra
When did you start playing the violin?
When I was three. My parents are musicians, and my older sisters play violin and cello.
You must practice a lot during in the week.
Two hours a day, but I really should do more!
What's the best thing about going to Juilliard?
Meeting all the other students. One of my friends used to commute to Juilliard every weekend from California.
Do you want to be a professional musician when you grow up?
I'm keeping my options open. I also love to dance—I spend two and a half hours every Saturday with the National Dance Institute, and I do ballet on Tuesdays.
Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift.
Luke Nonas-Hunter, 10
Dancer with the American Tap Dance Foundation's Junior Ensemble
When did you start dancing?
When I was three, my dad showed me Gene Kelly movies, and I would dance along with them. When I was six, my mom signed me up for classes.
What's so special about tap?
I love the rhythm and the beat, and that you can make music with your whole body. It's like showing the world, Here I am!
How often do you perform?
I take classes two days a week, and the ensemble performs in a lot of tributes and galas around the city. I did one with Bebe Neuwirth, Chita Rivera and Angela Lansbury.
Does everyone in the ensemble get along?
Yeah, it's great. We admire each other's tapping, and we like to steal each other's moves!
What do you want to do next?
I'd love to be on So You Think You Can Dance, and then on Broadway.
Ski'la Collins Richardson, 9
Member of the Chelsea Piers gymnastics team; placed third in New York State's Level 7 vault
How did you get started?
My mom signed me up for classes at Chelsea Piers when I was around four, and I just kept going.
Do you work out often?
Four hours every day, except Wednesdays and Sundays.
What do you think are your most impressive skills?
Giant flyaways on the bars, and roundoff back handspring to a back layout on the floor.
Wow. That is very impressive. Any favorite gymnastics memories?
When I was eight, I got to do a sleepover at the gym as a reward for my hard work. That was really cool!
How do you relax on your days off?
I stay home and watch Harry Potter movies.
Tori Feinstein, 6
Voice of Muffin in the upcoming television series 3rd & Bird on the Disney Channel
Why did you decide to become an actor?
My older sister, Hayley [who is also on 3rd & Bird], was always singing around the house, and I decided I like to sing too.
What classes do you take?
Singing, acting, tap dance and gymnastics.
What's been the most fun so far?
When I filmed my scene in the movie Arthur, I had to get up really early and stay up really late. We were on the set almost the whole day!
It must have been cool working with Russell Brand.
Yes, he was really nice.
What's it like seeing yourself onscreen?
It's so amazing. The first time I screamed and said, "That's me!"