At age 22, pianist Charlie Albright has won a lifetime's worth of awards and acclaim.
Albright, who grew up in Centralia, last month made his debut at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
Washington Post reviewer Charles T. Downey declared him “among the most gifted musicians of his generation.”
He’ll perform Wednesday in Olympia as part of the 21st Century Masters series, showcasing winners of Young Concert Artists International Auditions.
Despite the acclaim, Albright is modest and practical. He’s in a dual degree program and will graduate in May with a degree in economics and pre-med from Harvard University. He has another year at the New England Conservatory of Music, where he’s working on a master’s.
“I’ll still be doing music next year, but after that, I’m not sure,” he said. “That’s what I want to do most, but it’s really hard to make a career out of it.”
But hasn’t he already done that? He’s doing concerts every week. He’s played with the Seattle Symphony and the San Francisco Symphony and done concerts with cellist Yo-Yo Ma. He’s soon to play with the Boston Pops. His first album, “Vivace,” is just out.
“Even if you have a lot of success, nothing is guaranteed,” he said. “A lot of it is luck. ‘How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.’ That’s not true. It’s, ‘Practice and be very lucky.’”
Nancy Adsit of Olympia taught Albright piano for a dozen years, beginning when he was 7 years old. She said she’s known since the beginning that he was destined for greatness in whatever he chose to pursue.
After she’d been teaching Albright for just a short time, a TV interviewer asked her what she thought he’d end up doing.
“My only response was ‘Anything he wants,’” she said. “He has said that if he could, he would like to be a concert artist, and in my book, he is that,. He really is just the nicest guy you’d ever want to meet. He’s very bright but very humble.”
He’s also very interesting – at least according to the editorial staff of the Harvard Crimson, which recently named him one of the school’s 15 most interesting seniors.
The article by Beth E. Braiterman includes an account of the first performance Albright did at the college. “Albright introduced his talent to the Harvard community early, wowing the audience at the Freshman Talent Show. His winning performance consisted of a medley, starting with Chopin’s Fourth Ballade, moving into ‘Great Balls of Fire,’ and concluding with the end of the Chopin Ballade.”
“Great Balls of Fire”? While his concert work is classical – as is the album “Vivace” that includes one composition by Albright as well as work by Chopin, Haydn and other familiar names – Albright listens to plenty of pop.
“If the question is ‘What’s on my iPod?’ it’s not classical music,” he said. “I listen to a lot of popular music. That’s what I listen to in the car and that’s what I listen to when I study. I don’t listen to a lot of classical music just to listen to it.
“I guess I get enough of it just playing it.”
What kind of pop?
“I listen to a lot of Korean pop, actually,” he said. “My mom is Korean, and I speak Korean. It helps me keep up with the language.”