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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.[1]

It is not known when Alberti first emigrated from Faenza, but one secondary reference claims that he introduced the "new Italian method" of violin teaching to the colonies in 1759.[2] Alberti first met Jefferson in Williamsburg in the 1760s. Years later, Jefferson told his grandson-in-law of Alberti: "...Alberti came over with a troop of players[3] and afterwards taught music in Williamsburg. Subsequently I got him to come up here to Monticello and took lessons for several years." Alberti is also said to have tutored Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson on the harpsichord.[4] Alberti also tutored some of the younger Jefferson siblings, and taught dancing to other nearby residents, including James Madison.[5]

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."[6]

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.[7] That same year, Alberti signed his name (as "Francis Alberte") to a Williamsburg imprint of the Continental Association.[8]

Little more is known of Alberti; he 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."[9] 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.[10]


Primary Source References

1768 Jan. 31. "Pd. a negro of Chr. Clarke's for Alberti 2/6."[11]

1769 March 10. "Mem. I am to pay Dav. Ross for Will. Prior at the April Gen. Court £10 for Alberti."[12]

1771 Nov. 30. "Pd. Sr. Alberti for tooth pick case 5/."[13]

1772 Mar. 20. "Sent do. [Mr. Moore] to pay off exn. v. Albert £6."[14]

1774 May 4. "Accepted Francis Alberti's order in favour of Saml. Taliaferro for £63-14-4."[15]

1777 Mar. 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."[16]


  1. This article is based on June King, Monticello Research Report, January 2010.
  2. O. G. Sonneck, "Francis Hopkinson (1737-1791): The First American Composer," Sammelbände der Internationalen Musikgesellschaft 5, no 1 (1903), 123.
  3. According to John W. Molnar in his article, "Art Music in Colonial Virginia," this was "almost certainly the Hallam Douglass company." In Art and Music in the South, ed. Francis B. Simkins (Farmville, Va.: Longwood University, 1961), 80. See also advertisement for "A Concert," Virginia Gazette, May 11, 1769, page 4.
  4. Randall, Life, 1:131-2. Text available online.
  5. MB, 1:70.
  6. Nicholas Trist Memorandum, quoted in Randall, Life, 1:131.
  7. Referenced in Molnar, "Art Music in Colonial Virginia." The ledger is in the Hubard Family Papers, University of North Carolina.
  8. "The Association entered into by the American Continental Congress in Behalf of all the Colonies", Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress.
  9. James Currie to Jefferson, Richmond, August 5, 1785, in PTJ, 8:342.
  10. Henrico County Court Book, 1:239-40. The sale of Alberti's property for £29-15 is recorded on page 276.
  11. MB, 1:70. (See also extensive editorial note accompanying this entry.)
  12. Ibid., 1:139.
  13. Ibid., 1:264.
  14. Ibid., 1:287.
  15. Ibid., 1:373.
  16. Ibid., 1:440-1.

See Also

Further Sources

Filed In: 
Music, People


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