I had the opportunity on Sunday to attend a masterclass with award-winning cellist Arnold Choi and his (on loan) $11,000,000 "Bonjour" Stradivarius cello. The students ranged from age 9 to about 15, so much of his teaching was in the range of what I teach. He had some similar ideas that I had regarding how to address the students' playing (nice to get that reinforcement) and I got some new ideas from him, too. Even a few tips I can use myself in my own playing!
He also did a short Q & A session afterwards. One question was regarding his comments to a 12 year old student who didn't have his piece memorized. The student explained, "I've only had it for three weeks." Arnold's reaction to that was, "Three weeks is a lifetime!" That was news to most of us in the audience, so someone asked about that. For Arnold, at that age he would learn the notes to a piece in one week, and of course work longer to refine it. But he was practicing five hours a day from the time he was five years old, and this student was usually practicing one hour a day.
So another comment from the audience about how self-motivated he must have been to practice five hours a day. "Oh no! My parents MADE me! I wanted to be outside playing!" And he added how thankful he is for that now. He said the ages 5 - 12 are the golden years for learning to play. All those hours of practice then make all the difference for him now. Some of his peers didn't begin until they were 8 or 11, and they now have to work much harder than he does.
Does one HAVE to practice five hours a day at five years old to be a professional cellist? No, but it helps! It would take very dedicated and probably creative parents to undertake such a venture. When older, yes, five hours would probably be recommended. I have heard that one should not practice more than five hours a day, or it becomes counter-productive. No worries on that happening here....
Here is a short video regarding the young musicians chosen to receive instruments from the Canada Council, in which you can here Arnold Choi at the end.