When you start playing improv before you play Beethoven, how does that influence your audiences?

 

“Holy smokes! I want to learn that!” thought then-eleven-year-old Washington native Charlie Albright as he listened to Richard Goode perform Janácek’s Sonata 1.X.1905 in Lincoln Hall for Portland Piano International. His piano teacher Nancy Adsit was sitting next to him, and upon returning home they began learning the piece. Sixteen years later, now a winner of the 2014 Avery Fisher Career Grant, Oregon’s next-door-neighbor has come full circle from being PPI’s eager young audience member to opening his very own PPI concert series this weekend with this same Janácek sonata.

Albright began his music studies at the age of three, focusing particularly on jazz until age seven when he began classical studies with Adsit. He earned an Associate of Science degree at Centralia College while still in high school. In addition to winning a 2010 Gilmore Young Artist Award and 2009 Young Concert Artists International Audition, Albright was the first classical pianist accepted to the Harvard College/New England Conservatory Joint program, receiving Bachelor’s degree as a Pre-Med and Economics major at Harvard in 2011, Master of Music degree in Piano Performance at the New England Conservatory in 2012, and Artist Diploma (A.D.) from New York’s Juilliard School.

I enjoy talking to the audience between pieces, and I also enjoy asking audience members to call out notes and then improvising on the spot. These practices lower the walls between performer and audience and allow for a two-way road between the performers and audience members.

Charlie Albright. Photo: Stan Giske.