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By happenstance, a musical talent in Laurel is born | OLD TOWN

An audience from around the country — and on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean — gathered via Zoom recently to hear a young musician from Old Town perform a range of wonderful pieces on two different instruments.

Twelve-year-old Lizzy Albertine wowed the crowd Sunday by playing everything from a theme from the popular video game “Super Mario Galaxy” on the piano to a solo cello performance of Camille Saint-Saens’ “The Swan,” one of the most famous cello pieces ever composed.

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The recital was organized by Lizzy’s mother, April Albertine, to give the middle schooler something to look forward to after she has gone more than a year without performing live for an audience, outside of her family.

“She has kind of been in a slump recently, without anything to prepare for,” April Albertine said. “She’s feeling kind of in the doldrums about playing cello but is always so motivated by playing for people.”

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Lizzy was all smiles for the recital, whose attendees included her grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers and friends near and far. She smiled warmly and thanked her audience.

Lizzy’s musical talent was discovered by chance several years ago when the family was living in England for a time. Lizzy, then in the English-equivalent of third grade, was randomly assigned by her school to take cello lessons. She was placed with a teacher, Hilary Dexter, in a group class. Within several weeks, Dexter approached April Albertine and insisted that she place Lizzy in private lessons.

Dexter became the family’s “Maria von Trapp” — the matriarchal inspiration to the family in “The Sound of Music — April Albertine said, bringing music to the family’s life and helping Lizzy flourish as a budding young cellist. In particular, Lizzy seemed to thrive under the structured British musical system of regular examinations.

Lizzy Albertine, 12, plays the piano and cello and has advanced far in the rigorous British musical system. She recently gave a Zoom recital for family and friends.
Lizzy Albertine, 12, plays the piano and cello and has advanced far in the rigorous British musical system. She recently gave a Zoom recital for family and friends. (Mary Schneidau Sullivan/Courtesy photo)

The Albertine family — which also includes dad, Eric, 14-year-old Jamie and 3-year-old Ellie — moved back to the United States in summer 2019. They bought a house, sight unseen, close to April Albertine’s parents, longtime Old Town residents Elden and Mary Carnahan, and settled back into American life.

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Lizzy, however, wanted to continue advancing within the Associated Board of Royal Schools of Music program. So they hunted for a local cello teacher who was certified to instruct Lizzy in the method and happened upon Welsh-born cellist Ryan Lowe. He began teaching her, first in person and then virtually when the coronavirus pandemic started.

Last summer, Lizzy decided she wanted to learn piano, as well, and began lessons with her former cello teacher, Dexter, instructing her remotely from England.

“I sort of thought, ‘How do you teach a beginner online?’ ” Dexter said when introducing Lizzy’s piano pieces during the Zoom recital. “When you’ve got a talent like Lizzy, extraordinary progress is made.”

Lowe agreed during his introduction of Lizzy’s violin pieces. “How much joy that brings me as a teacher to work with such an advanced student,” he said.

Lizzy has placed into Grade 7 of the British musical system, of which Grade 8 is the highest tier. April Albertine said her daughter will probably be ready to test into that highest level sometime this summer or fall. She has an interest in playing in an orchestra, but also wants to pursue graphic design, her mom said. Right now Lizzy is a seventh grader juggling hybrid learning.

Her parents are amazed about how their daughter stumbled into music, having never pursued it on her own before having to do so for school.

“She loves playing,” April Albertine said, “and to me, it’s so funny to think about when we saw this talent emerge from her. It makes me wonder what talents all of us have just beneath the surface.”

Contact Old Town columnist Mary Sullivan at marysullivan84@gmail.com.

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