Charlie Albright '11: Sticking with the keys

by Gabrielle Lochard

Pianist Charlie Albright ‘11 has already conquered major concert venues in the country -- The Kennedy Center in Washington and Symphony Hall in Boston, for instance -- and is now Leverett’s new Artist-in-Residence, a position which was last held by the cellist Yo-Yo Ma '76. Having completed the Harvard leg of the Harvard-NEC Dual Degree Program this past May, Albright, a former Economics concentrator, is giving his first Artist-in-Residence Concert of the year at 7 p.m. Thursday, October 6 in Leverett Dining Hall. Harvard Arts Beat blogger Gabrielle Lochard '12 sat down with Albright to talk about life, performing post-graduation and this week’s concert.

How would you define the role of the Artist-in-Residence in Leverett?

Usually when I have to explain it to people, I say it’s a kind of "pseudo-tutor," but also a guy who plays the piano. Basically, I live here, but instead of giving study breaks, I give concerts, and people can also come to me if they have questions about performing. So I’m a kind of advisor in that way too.

Why did you decide to go with the Harvard-NEC program instead of just pursuing a degree in performance, and how do you feel about that decision now that you’ve graduated?

I knew when I was applying to college that I wanted continue with piano and didn’t want to give that up. A lot of people I knew who were really, really good and gave it up, which was really kind of sad, and I knew I didn’t want to do that, but I knew I also wanted to continue with the academic side of things. I figured that I’d want to do a joint program. Harvard-NEC ended up being the best choice for that, and I have absolutely no regrets. It turned out to be even better than I thought it was going to be. The first four years, as a pianist at least, all you really have to do is take lessons, and some classes at Harvard transfer. This year is the first year I’m actually taking classes at NEC, but they're pretty much all electives, which is really nice.

What would you say to somebody debating between a dual degree program like Harvard-NEC and a more traditional conservatory education?

I think it really depends on your personality. Some people feel more comfortable in a conservatory setting because they can practice all day long, but I would literally go crazy. I mean, literally. I practice a fraction of what most conservatory students do, just because I really can’t play for eight hours a day non-stop. It was good that I decided on a dual degree because I needed something else to keep me busy. The other side to doing a dual degree is that you have to juggle two things, but for the most part, I don’t think it was as much time as most people think.

Could you talk a little bit about the program for your concert?

Since the new concert season just started, I’ve had to play a new program, but what I’ve been doing has been changing half a program at a time at the beginning of each season. So half of the program I played at the end of last year’s season, and the other half is new for this year. I’m playing some Schubert impromptus, and I’m also playing the Beethoven op. 110 sonata, which is one of those things you can be like 90-years old and still not quite have the maturity to play, but I’m still trying anyway. I’m also a playing a fun one, a concert arrangement of the Blue-Danube theme, which is one of these crazy, Lisztian, take-something-simple-and-make-it-as-flashy-as-possible things. And then in the second half, I’m playing the Op. 25 Chopin Etudes.

All of them?!

All of them.

[Caption: PHOTO: Tatsunori Hashimoto]