Her grandmother wanted her to take violin lessons.
But Alleyah White said no. She wanted to learn to play the piano.
Alleyah was 3 years old at the time, and the search for a piano teacher who would take her was a difficult one.
“Everyone said she was too young,” said Felicia White, Alleyah's grandmother.
Finally Kathy Knebel, a Suzuki instructor at the Omaha Conservatory of Music, agreed to give the little girl a try. She would become the youngest piano student at the music school.
She began playing pieces after hearing them on CDs, Knebel said, explaining that the Suzuki method follows a logical path. Just as children learn to speak before learning to read and write, Suzuki piano students learn to play music by ear before learning to read it.
At 4, Alleyah can play by ear and play pieces she has memorized. But she also can play new pieces by reading the music. During a recent visit with her, she launched into “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” playing from a book.
“She is advanced for her age,” said Knebel, who credits Alleyah's family with contributing to her success. “Their support motivates her.”
Alleyah lives with her mother, Mallorie, at the Bellevue home of her grandparents, Felicia and Elbert White.
Although she's shy around strangers who ask her questions, Alleyah said she wanted to play the piano because “I liked the sound of it.”
While reluctant to say a lot during an interview, she wasn't shy at all about playing music. She hopped onto the bench — her feet nowhere near the pedals — and played pieces she had memorized.
Family friend Tara Evans said she couldn't believe a 4-year-old was playing the piano for her. “She will knock your socks off!”
Alleyah did answer some questions. Her favorite color is blue; her favorite food is cheese. And she hoped Santa Claus would bring her a princess doll.
And what does she want to be when she grows up? “A princess!”
“She has a very creative imagination,” Felicia White said.
Alleyah said she wants to learn to play more instruments. Her grandmother's choice, the violin, is on her list, but so are the ukulele and the recorder.
Right now she attends school at White's Our Precious Lambs Child Care and Preschool. She's advanced for her age there, too.
White said by 18 months old, Alleyah was reading flashcards. By her second birthday, she could read simple sentences. Now she is reading at a second- or third-grade level.
What are her favorite things to do after playing the piano and reading books? Coloring and playing tag — perfect activities for a future princess.