Bland County Historical Society

Albert Newberry earns Herb Alpert award
Abert Newberry

Herb Alpert was popular years before Albert Newberry was born. Yet the singer-trumpeter and the 13-year-old part-time Bland resident share a connection.

Newberry is one of 30 young musicians worldwide to receive this year’s Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award. At 13, he is one of the six recipients under the age of 18.

Established in 2002 by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers Foundation, the award was created to encourage jazz composers under the age of 30. It is given to musicians selected through a juried national competition and includes a cash prize.

The Herb Alpert Foundation was established in the early 1980s. It makes annual contributions to a range of programs in the fields of arts, arts education and compassion and well-being.

Newberry won the award on a piano piece he composed called “Tritone Blues.” He was required to write the score and record the song for the judges to consider.

His dad, Randy Newberry, noted Albert’s love of music began at age eight when his mother, Kristina Newberry, signed him up for beginners’ piano lessons. After two years, he said, Albert began composing his own music.

A student at North Cross School in Roanoke, he takes music lessons there and studies classical piano at the Renaissance Music Academy in Blacksburg with teacher/mentor Teresa Ehrlich. Newberry also takes jazz lessons with Cyrus Pace at the Jefferson Center in Roanoke and studies music theory with Hollins University Professor Barbara Mackin.

Newberry also plays the xylophone, chimes and bells.

In an email, he credited Ehrlich and Mackin with helping him meet the deadline for the contest. Mackin assisted him with putting the score on paper and his dad recorded it for him, according to him.

“We barely made it to the post office before closing time on the last day to be eligible,” Newberry said. “I didn’t think I had a chance since I was competing against grown-ups but I thought it would be a good experience. I was really surprised when we found out I was one of the winners.”

A career in music is Newberry’s goal. It could be as a songwriter or a performer.

“We are encouraging him to have a backup plan,” his dad noted. “There are a lot of starving musicians and writers out there.”

The Newberrys divide their time between Bland and Roanoke since Kristina Newberry teaches at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington.