London: Her hands are so tiny her fingers barely span more than a few keys at a time.
She uses a booster seat to get level with the keyboard and it takes all her concentration to play without looking.
But even before she is three years old, Lavinia Ramirez has astounded experts — with her first public performance on piano.
True, it might have been only a note-perfect rendition of Mary Had a Little Lamb at her music school’s end of term concert. But on Wednesday she was being hailed as a mini maestro in the making — and Britain’s youngest piano playing star.
Her teacher Matej Lehocky said her talent was “remarkable” for someone so young, describing her ability as “outstanding”.
“To play at her age is something extraordinary, something very special,” he said. “Usually children that young are not able to control themselves or do what they are told. Normally they just run down the keys and get bored.”
Lavinia, who celebrates her third birthday on Thursday, 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. 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.
“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.”
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.
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.”