Neil Sedaka, singer-songwriter – portrait of the artist

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What got you started?

I was a child prodigy at the piano: I started to play by ear at the age of seven, studied with a private teacher at eight, and at nine got a scholarship to the Juilliard school in New York. I then studied for 10 years to be a concert pianist, before I discovered I could write music and sing.

Is it important for pop and rock songwriters to have classical training?

It was for me. Most of the other early rock'n'rollers only knew four chords.

What was your big breakthrough?

Going into the Brill Building [in New York]. It was full of little rooms owned by small music publishing firms that were dedicated to finding young writers for the teenage record market. Howard Greenfield and I wrote songs in one of those rooms, with just a piano and a desk, five a days a week, from 10 in the morning till five in the evening. It was a great training ground.

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