Francis Alberti

From Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia

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Francis (Francesco) Alberti ( ? – 1785) was a musician from Faenza, Italy.[1] He came to the colonial capitol of Williamsburg with a "troop" of musicians who played regularly for festivities at the Governor’s Palace and other sites in the area. He caught the attention of Thomas Jefferson, then a student at the College of William & Mary, who employed Alberti as a violin tutor.[2] Alberti is also said to have tutored the future Mrs. Jefferson, Martha Wayles Skelton, on the harpsichord.[3]

Once established at Monticello, Jefferson invited Alberti to visit him there, where Alberti continued to tutor Jefferson, his wife, Martha, and other members of the Monticello household; Alberti also taught dancing to other nearby residents, including James Madison.[4]

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 that he had heard the great violinist Viotti many times, but “never derived the same pleasure from him that I have from Alberti.”[5]

Little more is known of Alberti. 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."[6]


  1. This article is based on June King, Monticello Research Report, January 2010.
  2. MB, 1:70.
  3. Randall, Life, 1:132. Text available online.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Nicholas Trist Memorandum, quoted in Randall, Life, 1:131.
  6. James Currie to Jefferson, Richmond, August 5, 1785, in PTJ, 8:342.