Ifetayo Ali-Landing: Cellist Prodigy Extraordinaire

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Fourteen year old Ifetayo Ali-Landing has broken nearly every mold attached to classical music. The Nigerian-American cellist has always been the odd one out. While most toddlers were learning to walk and talk, she was playing the violin, and when most teenagers were surfing the Internet, Ali-Landing was busy mastering the cello.

At age 2, Ifetayo began learning to play the violin from her mother Lucinda, the founder of the Hyde Park Suzuki Institute, which provides lessons based on the Suzuki Method of instruction in violin, viola, cello, and piano, to children from three years old and above. School fees are kept low to accommodate low-income student participation.

Preferring the mellow sounds of the cello, Ifetayo soon pleaded with her mother to drop the violin. Lucinda permitted the switch and by 6, the young prodigy was working magic on the cello. When she was 9, Ifetayo declared she wanted to be a soloist, a dream her mother has helped her ensure. Today, she hopes to attend the prestigious Julliard School in New York and continues to take part in various concerts and competitions.

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By the age of 10, Ifetayo Ali-Landing had already become well known. In 2013, at the Friends of the IPO (Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra) Rising Stars Showcase, she performed the 1st movement of the Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto No.1 in A minor. The piece went viral with over 53,000 views on YouTube and 8 million views on Facebook. Ifetayo comes from a long line of musicians – her grandfather is a violist, her mother and older sister play the violin, and her aunt also plays the cello.  Despite this, because classically-trained Ifetayo is home-schooled, she is able to practice for up to 6 hours daily on her cello.

In 2017, she emerged winner of the 2017 Annual Sphinx Competition, carting away a $10,000 cash prize and earning the opportunity to feature as a soloist with major orchestras in America, perform with the all black and Latino Sphinx Symphony Orchestra and appear on the prestigious and widely broadcasted talent showcase called From the Top.

Last year, Ali-Landing was selected as one of the winners of the DePaul Concerto Festival for Young Performers competition in Chicago, where she performed as soloist with the festival’s Oistrakh Symphony Orchestra. She has also received recognition from the Society of American Musicians (SAM) competition, Depaul Concerto Festival for Young Musicians competition, and the Music Festival in Honor of Confucius competition. Her inspiration includes artistes from multiple genres but she is an ardent fan of Grammy award-winning singer Beyoncé.

Ifetayo Ali-Landing enjoys singing, dancing, playing the piano and listening to music from Twenty One Pilots, One Direction, Cage the Elephant, Chance the Rapper, Alabama Shakes, Tahirah Whittington – one of her former teachers and the lead cellist for Hamilton: An American Musical in Chicago. One of her favourite contemporary classical musicians is Jacqueline du Pré, an English cellist. A young girl who has been making decisions for herself since she was 3 years old, and mastered the cello at such a tender age, is definitely one to watch.



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