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Francis Alberti

Francis (Francesco) Alberti ( ? – 1785) was a musician from Faenza, Italy, who taught music to Thomas Jefferson and his family. Though the date of Alberti's emigration from Faenza to America is unknown, one secondary source states that Alberti introduced the "new Italian method" of violin teaching to the colonies in 1759.1

Alberti first met Thomas Jefferson in Williamsburg in the 1760s. Years later, Jefferson told Nicholas Trist, his grandson-in-law: "... Alberti came over with a troop of players and afterwards taught music in Williamsburg. Subsequently, I got him to come up here (Monticello) and took lessons for several years."2 Alberti is said to have tutored Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson on the harpsichord; to have tutored some of Jefferson's younger siblings; and to have taught dancing to other nearby residents, including James Madison.3

Even after hearing some of the finest musicians and composers of the day during his years in Europe, Jefferson still retained a fondness for Alberti. He told Nicholas Trist, "I have heard Viotti often, but never derived the same pleasure from him that I have from Alberti."4

Alberti evidently worked for other well-to-do families as a music teacher. The clerk of Amherst County, Edmund Wilcox, recorded a payment to Alberti for "teaching you Musick" against the account of Richard Taliaferro, a brother-in-law of George Wythe, in 1774.5 That same year, Alberti signed his name (as "Francis Alberte") to a Williamsburg imprint of the Continental Association.6

Little more is known of Francis Alberti, who disappears from Jefferson's accounts after 1777. On August 5, 1785, a friend in Richmond wrote to Jefferson, "By the bye old Alberti died and was interrd last night here. He was one of a Band of musick to whom I have subscribed tho never heard them, at all; they surpass in execution, hardly the Jews Harp and Banjer performers."7 An inventory of Alberti's property at the time of his death included three fans, cordial bottles, a pair of ladies' gloves, a tenor violin, five violin bridges, seven bows, a hymn book, and three old music books, among other items.8

Primary Source References

1768 January 31. "Pd. a negro of Chr. Clarke's for Alberti 2/6."9

1769 March 10. "Mem. I am to pay Dav. Ross for Will. Prior at the April Gen. Court £10 for Alberti."10

1771 November 30. "Pd. Sr. Alberti for tooth pick case 5/."11

1772 March 20. "Sent do. [Mr. Moore] to pay off exn. v. Alberti £6."12

1774 May 4. "Accepted Francis Alberti’s order in favour of Saml. Taliaferro for £6–6s–8d in part of paimt. for R. Jefferson."13

1777 March 19. "See Pet. Feild Trent's acct. rendered me by George Divers money paid & goods delivered to following persons & charged to me. ... 1774. Sep. 17. Francis Alberti 2-10-0. Some of which are already settled in account with those persons, the others must be carried into account."14

- June King, 1/2010

Further Sources

Filed In: 
Music, People


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