Lavinia, who celebrates her third birthday today, had been learning to play for only six weeks before she stepped out to perform before a 200-strong audience at a local church hall on the outskirts of Plymouth.
By that stage she had been to only eight lessons. Mr Lehocky, who studied at the prestigious Prague Conservatory of Music and learned to play when he was four, agreed to tutor her after realising she was exceptionally bright and clearly interested to learn.
She loves listening to classical music and occasionally asks him to play for her. Bizet’s Carmen is her current favourite.’
She is so mature for her age that you forget you’ve got a two-year-old sitting there with you,’ he said. ‘It’s as if she is five or six. She’s really only a baby though, so of course there are times when she gets distracted. But what she has is something exceptional. Her hand-eye co-ordination is remarkable.
Prodigy: Lavinia’s teacher Matej Lehocky (pictured practicing with her) said it was remarkable that someone of her age could play so well and said she was the best piano playing child in the UK
‘She can play Old MacDonald had a Farm using both hands at once. I think in about eight months’ time she will be able to sit a Grade One exam. I can’t recall anyone doing that at the age of three.’ Lavinia was nicknamed Little Miss Mozart after performing at the concert (although Mozart is thought to have been nearly four when he first started to play a clavichord keyboard).
Neither of her parents plays an instrument but she became interested in music after getting a toy piano for Christmas.
Her mother Jenna Ramirez, who also has nine-month-old daughter Florelle, said: ‘I don’t know where Lavinia gets her brains from – she’s more intelligent than me. Before she was two she could write numbers and letters and recognise them in books. She told me what a trapezium was the other day; I didn’t know. She seemed to be on the toy piano all the time so we asked her if she wanted to learn, and she said she would.’
Mrs Ramirez and her husband Ian, both managers at a Tesco supermarket near their home in Ivybridge, Devon, bought her an upright piano when they realised she had such a thirst to learn.
Talent: Lavinia was among 21 students playing at the concert, in Derriford Church Hall in Plymouth, Devon
Mrs Ramirez told me yesterday: ‘She plays that at home, using a booster seat on a dining room chair instead of a piano stool. Sometimes she’ll play on and off all day, sometimes she goes a week without playing. We let her decide. As for the future, we won’t push her. We just want to allow her skill to develop naturally.’
Playing at the age of three is not unique but is extremely rare – as is Lavinia’s progress and confidence.
Shown video footage of Lavinia playing, John Holmes, chief examiner of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, said she showed ‘exciting potential with her piano playing skills and has clearly made excellent progress in her first two months’.
Nicholas Keyworth, chief examiner in music at Trinity College London, said: ‘The most important thing is that she is discovering the joy of playing music and learning so many skills which are helping in her personal development. This is a lovely story and one which will encourage learners of any age.’