Violinist Alexander Kerr, "at 14 years of age, is an artist," asserts Luis Haza, who will be conducting the Alexandria Symphony this afternoon at a pops concert at the Alexandria Red Cross Waterfront Festival. Kerr will join the Alexandria Symphony in Paganini's Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major.

"At first I didn't really want to do the piece, but nothing else was as challenging," Kerr said, explaining that "it has all the hard violin techniques combined in one piece. It is very flashy."

Haza, who has watched Kerr grow "from an outstanding young 12-year-old when they first met to a 14-year-old virtuoso," declared that with the Paganini concerto "the violinist is the absolute king of the show." As a member of the National Symphony's first violin section and a conductor of the Northern Virginia Youth Symphony, he cited Kerr's ability "to portray the emotional content of music like a person twice his age."

Kerr has come a long way, not only from the days when he failed at playing the cello because his fingers were too small for the job, but also from the earlier days when he "used to hate anything to do with classical music." But listening to some recordings of violin music and picking up the violin only to discover that he "didn't sound like a dying cat" were the events that eventually rendered "hobby" an obsolete word in his musical vocabulary. Now Kerr is a T.C. Williams student during the week and a commuter student at Juilliard in New York on weekends; he enters, and wins, competitions; and has the aspirations of any normal virtuoso: to play with the New York Philharmonic -- "someday."

Kerr will perform with the Alexandria Symphony, today, from 4 to 6, at the Alexandria Red Cross Waterfront Festival.