Charlie Albright, who graduated from Harvard & Juilliard School, half-Korean, was born and raised in the United States, and currently lives with his wife in Seattle, WA.
He started playing the piano when he was three and a half years old. They had an old, clunky upright piano in their living room that his parents had purchased from a garage sale. So he climbed up on the piano bench and started playing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” by ear. His mom asked him who had taught him that and he apparently had said “Nobody.”
He was accepted to and became the first classical pianist in the Harvard/New England Conservatory of Music 5-Year AB/MM Joint Program, and was able to be a full-time student at Harvard majoring in Economics and studying pre-medicine for 4 years, graduating at the same time as his classmates. Simultaneously, he took lessons and classes at Harvard that transferred to NEC as part of his Master’s Degree. At the end of Year 4 (2011), he had graduated from Harvard and finished Year 1 at NEC. He stayed on at Harvard’s Leverett House as their Artist in Residence (the position previously held by cellist Yo-Yo Ma) and finished his Masters at NEC in 2012.
Then he applied to and was accepted to the Artist Diploma program at the Juilliard School of Music, moved to New York to study there, and graduated from Juilliard in 2014 with an A.D., having studied with Yoheved Kaplinsky. He is continuing to actively perform and trying to make all kinds of music accessible and fun for everyone.
WHAT OBSTACLES HAVE YOU OVERCOME TO GET WHERE YOU ARE TODAY BOTH PROFESSIONALLY AND PERSONALLY?
Making music as a career is undoubtedly difficult. Because art and entertainment is such a subjective field, it is easy to receive criticism and get discouraged. Though I am still continuously learning and hopefully growing as a person and artist, I have learned to not worry too much about what other people think about my performances. You could have two people hear the exact same performance, with one thinking that it was “completely wrong” and the other thinking it was “purely genius.” You cannot please everyone all the time, so I try to perform the way I feel is appropriate, and that hopefully communicates the emotion I want to share and “says” something worth saying through the music.
HOW DOES YOUR MUSIC CAREER USE YOUR SKILLS AND TALENTS, AND WHAT PROJECTS ARE YOU WORKING ON THAT BEST SHOWCASE THEM?
I wrote an article for CNN entitled “Classical” Music is Dying…and That’s the Best Thing for Classical Music (link: https://www.cnn.com/2016/05/29/opinions/classical-music-dying-and-being-reborn-opinion-albright/index.html) which describes a lot of my views on the unnecessary “rules” that drive a lot of people away from music. I think music should be accessible to everyone and should be fun.
One thing that I incorporate into almost all of my concerts is live improvisation. I’ll often take random notes from the audience and compose a 10-30 minute long piece of music on the spot. It is something that used to be done often in music but is sadly very rare now. Audiences love it, and it really brings music alive.
I have just commercially released the album The Schubert Series (Live): Part 2 a few weeks ago, as well, which is available at CharlieAlbright.com/Store
HOW DO YOU SPEND YOUR TIME OUTSIDE OF WORK? WHAT WOULD YOU BE IF YOU WERE NOT A PROFESSIONAL MUSICIAN?
Outside of work, I love spending time with my wife Stella, and our dog Molly. Lately, we’ve been getting out of the house by riding around the neighborhood on electric scooters. I also love watching good movies, hanging out with friends and family, and even doing yard work! If I weren’t a professional musician, I think I might have gone into business, possibly working at a tech company. Others might say that I’m a bit of a perfectionist!
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