From the Top Show 271 was taped at the Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts in New Albany, Ohio in March 2013. Learn what the performers have to say about their musical performances.
Audrey Watkins, 16, flute
III. Presto giocoso from Sonata for Flute and Piano
By: Francis Poulenc
This piece is extremely hormonal, with all sorts of jumps form lyrical to technical and back again. It never quite decides whether it wants to be serious or not, although it mostly leans towards the not serious. The way I think of it is it’s like someone in a class with their best friend, trying to pretend to be serious but bursting out laughing in all the teacher’s awkward pauses.
It’s really hard to maintain the internal calm necessary for the technique of this piece while still having the giggly attitude. If you aren’t careful, you wind up with about half the notes and a lot of really sharp high notes. It’s gun to juggle all of the piece’s moods, you just have to be careful to not get lost!
Post-Show Reflection: I really enjoyed going out for ice cream with Eric, Eva and Michaella after the show was over. It was the best to just relax and hang out with other awesome musicians and talk about the show, auditions, college, etc. Everyone on the show was so cool! The show was nerve-wracking in that when you’re playing with a great pianist, you REALLY don’t want to make mistakes. The experience of going on stage with all of the fun and madness of the show going on around you, however, was one of the most relaxed and sort of “fly by the seat of your pants” performances I’ve ever had.
Music can control your mood, which can control your actions, which can control your future, which can control your happiness, which can affect the entire human race. Ergo, music makes you happy, which makes everybody happy.
Sung Moon Park, 15, cello
By Lukas Foss
Post-Show Reflection: It’s hard to choose a favorite memory! The interview was a fun and new experience. I really liked the Arts Leadership Program orientation. It really made me look at music in a totally different way. Music is not just a mere entertainment, but also something that can make the world a better place.
The show was awesome! I love how From the Top does these concerts. The whole interview and more relaxed environment make it just awesome. I actually thought that it was little bit odd that the staff expected us to be super nervous backstage right before the performance.
Music has the power to make the world a much better place. It can unite people. It can build emotional connections between people. It is the best tool of communication we have got. It can do anything.
Eric Goldberg, 18, percussion
“Scirocco” for solo marimba
By: Michael Burritt
“Scirocco” means “hot desert winds,” and this image is definitely well captured by the melody of this piece. It consists of a lot of notes in a very short amount of time, which helps contribute to its frenzied storm-like nature. This piece was a challenge to learn not only because of its technical difficulty, but it was difficult to figure out how to communicate the imagery of it.
This piece evokes more imagery than others I have played, and there is a story that I have to tell. The tempo and dynamic ranges help communicate the varying intensity of this storm, so it is my duty to make that clear to the audience not only by the sound that I produce, but how I present it physically.
Eden Chen, 13, piano
“Concert Paraphrase on Rigoletto” S.434
By: Franz Liszt
I feel like I can play this piece for any occasion. It’s got lyrical sections AND virtuosity. I’ve played it in small parties and larger concerts, and always get great reactions. I think it’s like a chili pepper: what you’ve got is the drama and scope of an opera packed into the length of an impromptu. I remember once I was performing it at a hotel for some relatives, and some little kids ran up and started playing random keys. It was pretty funny because no one wanted to interrupt me, but the kids wouldn’t stop.
One of the most important things to keep in mind is the overall structure and unity of the piece. Since it came from an opera, and an opera is a story, everything has to sound adherent. To me, that’s the most difficult part because it’s really easy to get caught up in all the details. It is the first transcription I’ve ever played, and I enjoy it a lot, so I’m definitely going to want to play more transcriptions in the future.
“Geistliches Wiegenlied” (Sacred Lullaby) from Two Songs for Alto, Viola and Piano, Op.91, No.2
By: Johannes Brahms
Michaella Cipriani, 17, mezzo-soprano
This piece is a lullaby for Jesus, and it’s a pretty dark lullaby. In some parts, the speaker is pleading desperately to the angels for help protecting her child. She’s yelling at the trees to shut up because they’re being too loud. Eventually, the windstorm calms down, the baby falls asleep, and everything’s very sweet and picturesque.
I think this is one of those pieces where expression is more important than beauty. For me, that means sounding “yucky” sometimes – using straight-tone, glottal attacks – stuff I’m not supposed to do. It’s an interesting balancing act between singing with technical correctness (legato, with clean onsets, tone that projects, vibrancy, etc.) with expressiveness.
Post-Show Reflection: I loved hearing all the other performers play and talk about their music. They’re all so passionate. I think everyone’s enthusiasm rubbed off on each other, and built up higher and higher. I was surprised at how non-nervous I was. I think it was because I had the personal, informal connection with the live audience from talking about silly things in the interviews. I felt like everyone in the seats were good friends, and I was just hanging out, making music for fun with my friends.
Music has the power to create understanding between people who otherwise have trouble communicating with each other.
Eva Kennedy, 18, viola
This is one of the most gorgeous pieces I’ve ever played. It’s fairly repetitive, but the melodies are so beautiful that they never get old. One thing that we’ve worked on has been presenting the repeated melodies a little differently each time, so we ended up playing them over and over again in rehearsals and I still absolutely love playing and listening to them!
This piece has been a very unique experience for me – his is the first time I’ve ever played with a vocalist. It’s very different than playing with other string players, so it was difficult at first, but it has been fun and very beneficial, especially since we (string players) are always told to phrase like vocalists. We also had to take the meaning of the text into consideration when exploring different colors and characters, which is something I’d never had to do before.
Post-Show Reflection: One of my favorite parts was sitting backstage after we had finished playing with the other performers who had finished and listening to the show. It was so much fun to listen to the other performers; everybody sounded fantastic and the interviews were all hilarious, both of which were particularly apparent because of the audience’s reactions. Also, I had to miss the first night and two of the other performers missed the Arts Leadership workshop, so it was really nice to be there with everyone and feel that camaraderie.
It was so much fun! I had my last college audition the day before the show, so it was really exhilarating to walk onstage and know that I was just there to share this beautiful music–the audience wasn’t a panel judging me, they were a group of friends, family, and music-lovers who were engaged and excited to be there. As a performer, you can totally feel that.
Music has the power to do anything. Music can foster deeply meaningful human connections, international peace and understanding, personal growth and healing and discovery, and a million other things. If we continue to expand the boundaries of music and if we believe in it, music can do anything.
From the Top host Christopher O’Riley has released a new recording, O’Riley’s Liszt which delves into the transcriptions of the master interpreter. The 2-CD set and HD audio/video Blu-ray features Christopher’s own touches on the works of Mozart, Wagner, Berlioz, Schubert, and Schumann. Christopher is also making live appearances in conjunction with the May 7 release, performing at clubs and other alternative venues in New York, Boston, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. Check out the schedule below.
Christopher O’Riley on tour with O’Riley’s Liszt
National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Acting Chairman Joan Shigekawa announced that From the Top is one of 817 nonprofit organizations nationwide to receive an NEA Art Works grant. From the Top is recommended for two grants totaling $105,000 to support production of From the Top’s weekly radio show and From the Top’s education and outreach programs.
Acting Chairman Shigekawa said, “The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support these exciting and diverse arts projects that will take place throughout the United States. Whether it is through a focus on education, engagement, or innovation, these projects all contribute to vibrant communities and memorable opportunities for the public to engage with the arts.”
In August 2012, the NEA received 1,547 eligible applications for Art Works grants requesting more than $80 million in funding. Art Works grants support the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and the strengthening of communities through the arts. The 817 recommended NEA grants total $26.3 million and span 13 artistic disciplines and fields. Applications were reviewed by panels of outside experts convened by NEA staff, and each project was judged on its artistic excellence and artistic merit.
For a complete listing of projects recommended for Art Works grant support, please visit the NEA website at arts.gov.
Six years after appearing on From the Top, 22-year-old alum Eliodoro Vallecillo is paying it forward in his hometown of Salinas, California. Through his own after-school music program and traditional Mexican band, he hopes to develop new audiences for Mexican music and offer new opportunities for kids in Salinas.
Eliodoro wowed audiences on both From the Top’s radio and television programs with his performance of Mozart’s Concert No. 3 in E-flat on French horn. But it was his story about how his passion for music helped him to escape gang violence in his hometown and grieve the loss of his brother that audiences most remember.
For Eliodoro, his From the Top experience was influential in other ways. As a recipient of From the Top’s Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award, he was able to purchase a new French horn, which he used as a music major at California State University at Long Beach. He also counts From the Top’s Arts Leadership Orientation Workshop as a moment of inspiration for him.
“I remember some classes at From the Top on how to be involved in our community and that always stood in the back of my mind. It was always a dream to give back. Music is something that’s very powerful. I’m glad that From the Top encourages that, because a lot of these kids need it. I’m grateful that they made me see that!”
Music – both traditional Mexican and classical – was a large part of Eliodoro’s upbringing but unfortunately there weren’t many opportunities in his community for music instruction. “My brother and I went through a music program where we learned to play our instruments, after that there was nothing else in Salinas,” he says.
Eliodoro was inspired to create a way for kids in his hometown to continue their musical passions. He developed an after-school music program, Escuela de Musica Regional Mexicana, that introduces kids ages 7 to 17 to Mexican music. Jesse G. Sanchez Elementary School is the program’s main site, hosting over 100 students, while a secondary site at Salinas Public Library hosts just over 80 students. Students in the program focus on traditional Mexican music, such as the accordion, guitar, drums, bass guitar, tuba, trumpet, and bajo sexto, a traditional 12-stringed bass guitar.
“I would love the students to come back, teach, and stay involved.” He said, “It caught me off guard that all the students were very enthused, along with the parents, because it’s something that’s culturally relevant.”
Along with Escuela de Musica Regional Mexicana, Eliodoro’s band, Proyecto X, is also expanding audiences for Mexican music. He and his band members are all from Salinas, but have different musical backgrounds, which has helped to create the flavorful musical style of Proyecto X. Eliodoro performs accordion in the band, which has been featured on Spanish radio across the U.S. According to Eliodoro, “Radio stations have fallen in love with us,” and it is easy to see why.
Learn more about Escuela de Musica Regional Mexicana on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAiubWk-8hM&feature=youtu.be
Learn more about Proyecto X on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GRUPOPROYECTOX
or on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/GRUPOPROYECTOX?feature=watch
While taping in Athens, Georgia, From the Top performers visited with 25 students from Clarke Middle School to share what they love about music. The experience greatly affected one performer, who was deeply touched by the students’ excitement and curiosity.
“The school visit had an emotional effect on me, and I am so grateful for the opportunity,” remarked 17-year-old violinist Maria Ioudenitch. The reaction of the audience – such as one little boy saying to her, ”Listening to you makes me wish I never gave up the violin” – was inspiring and moving.
Hearing the students describe (as one does in the video below) how they felt when she played also demonstrated to Maria how much her music affects her audience.
The presentation made a big impression on the kids from Clarke Middle School as well. Clarke teacher Eunice Kang said, “Having the chance to hear a live performance by such amazing young musicians is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the majority of our students and you all made it even more captivating by allowing the students to ask questions and interact with the performers. It was really awesome.”
As part of every radio show taping, From the Top is committed to bringing our performers into the community. The opportunities provide an outlet for the young musicians on our show to put into practice the training they receive in From the Top’s Arts Leadership Orientation Workshop. Past From the Top performers have visited elderly living centers, public and private schools, colleges, community music programs, and hospitals.
It is with excitement that we report that six From the Top alumni have been named among 30 competitors in the Van Cliburn Competition, May 24 – June 9 in Fort Worth, Texas, one of the world’s most prestigious piano competitions.
The Van Cliburn Competition was founded in 1962 to recognize the great pianist Van Cliburn, who passed away in February 2013. In its 50-year history, the Cliburn has identified and ushered a host of exceptional artists to international prominence, including From the Top host Christopher O’Riley.
Meet the From the Top Van Cliburn competitors who represent six of eight U.S. contenders:
We’ll be reporting from the competition once it begins. So stay tuned as we follow these alumni.
From the Top wishes to extend warmest congratulations to all of the young performers, including ten From the Top alumni, who were chosen to be part of the National Youth Orchestra this summer! Each summer, Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute brings together 120 of the nation’s top young classical musicians to tour some of the world’s musical capitals as musical ambassadors. These young performers were accepted into this prestigious orchestra after a challenging and comprehensive audition process. Led by James Ross, the associate director of The Julliard School’s conducting program and director of orchestral activities at the University of Maryland, the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America will tour from July 11 to July 22, 2013, performing in Washington D.C., then Moscow and Saint Petersburg, and finally, London. Congratulations and best of luck to our remarkable alumni!
Erika Gray (Show 262, Greensburg, Pennsylvania)
Annie Wu (Show 263, Davis, California)
Annika Jenkins (Show 234, Virginia Beach, Virginia)
Demi Fang (Show 239, Ocean City, New Jersey)
Sean Byrne (Show 252, Chattanooga, Tennessee)
Elizabeth Sperry (Show 240, Boston, Massachusetts)
Tanner Jackson (Show 214, Iowa City, Iowa)
We think music is powerful stuff and we love sharing that message with the different communities we visit on tour. While taping in Mesa, Arizona in February (Show 269), we had a number of opportunities to do just that.
It all started the day of our show with a morning trip to Archway Classical Academy in Phoenix. In two back-to-back sessions, we visited both the fourth and fifth grade classes at the Academy. Performers Adé Williams (violin), Austen Yueh (clarinet), Trey Pernell (composer), and Peter Eom (cello) were each able to share stories, talk about why they love music, and lead the students through some really fun activities. It was an inspiring way to start the day – you can check out some highlights in the video below:
Later that evening before the show, we welcomed a group of high school music students from the Phoenix-based Rosie’s House to meet the entire cast backstage. The students had some really great questions, including the classic “Why did you choose your instrument?” to which Peter Eom jokingly said that his mother’s love for the cello gave him no choice. When another student asked, “How do you balance practicing and school?” the performers gave some really great tips and Adé pointed out “We all practice a lot, but still find time to have fun and be ourselves.” We took some fun group photos and offered tickets to the students so they could watch the performers “in action” for the live taping.
In 2007, when composer Stephen Feigenbaum appeared on From the Top Show 152 at the age of 18, his piece “Serenade for Strings” was performed by a string quintet made up of local students. Later, the piece was was recorded by the Cincinnati Pops for the From the Top CD release “From the Top at the Pops!” He is now the talented composer of the well-received musical Independents and his newest musical, The Abyss, opens tonight.
Since being on the show, Stephen majored in music at Yale University and he is currently pursuing his master’s degree at the Yale School of Music. He has received a multitude of awards, which include the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award, winner of the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble competition, and, most recently, winner of the Albany Symphony Orchestra’s “Composer to Center Stage” young artist competition. Aside appearing on From the Top, Stephen has also performed on The Martha Stewart Show and NBC’s The Sing-Off.
Last summer, the original musical Independents, with music penned by Stephen, premiered at the New York Fringe Festival and received the coveted honor of Best Overall Production. The musical follows a group of teenage slackers living on a Revolutionary War-era tall ship in a coming of age story about friendship, late-night sing-alongs, and Revolutionary War-era fashion. The musical received rave reviews: read more about it on The Huffington Post and The New York Times, or get the story straight from the creative team on their Kickstarter page.
Stephen has built upon the idea of musical storytelling in his musical, The Abyss. Stephen says: “What I was really interested in was how something like a Beethoven symphony was able, about 200 years ago, to reach a massive amount of people, and I was really interested in finding a model that would allow this kind of music, which people are still writing today and which is really important to me, to reach people in this kind of visceral way that matches other kinds of entertainment that are popular today.” Stephen, along with his partner and director, Charlie Polinger, has integrated classical music into a theatrical presentation that explores a 21st century imagining of the end of the world with an ensemble of musicians, dancers, and actors. Set in an abandoned storefront, the team uses the space to assist in provoking their audience’s imagination, inviting them to participate in the theatrical experience.
A Kickstarter page for The Abyss launched on December 7th, 2012 and they reached their funding goal on December 31st, 2012. From the Top congratulates Stephen and the cast and crew of The Abyss for their hard work and creative innovation.
The Abyss premiers on March 28th and will run until March 31st at 278 Park Street in downtown New Haven, Connecticut. Tickets are free on a first-come first-served basis. For more information, visit http://www.abysstheshow.com or http://www.stephenfeigenbaum.com.
9-year-old violinist Elizabeth Aoki charmed listeners when she appeared on Show 261 in Boston, Massachusetts. During a visit to Phoenix, Arizona with her mother, Elizabeth’s musical talent also won the hearts of residents living at the Freedom Plaza Retirement Community. She worked with a family friend to organize the event and played some violin favorites for the residents (check out the program below!). They loved having the chance to meet such a talented young violinist.
The thing I most enjoy about music is getting to go to different places and dressing up. I also like seeing the smiling faces of people in the audience enjoying my music. It seems like the people that listened to me play enjoy classical music. Because of this experience, I may want to play for retirement centers again. – Elizabeth Aoki
Symphonie espagnole in D minor – I. Allegro non troppo
Sonata No. 1 in G minor – Adagio
Pablo de Sarasate
Introduction and Tarantella
Variations on Amazing Grace
“I imagine these experiences will be invaluable to my future, where I will continue to provide music for those who are willing to accept it.”
Ever since he was young, composer, pianist, and From the Top Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award recipient Franz Zhao (Show 257) has seen the inspiring effect that music can have on others. He used that inspiration to create his own organization the Youth Music Society of San Francisco. Franz recruited musical friends and colleagues to join him in sharing classical music with audiences who otherwise have limited access to musical performances. The majority of their performances have been at retirement homes, and the residents have been truly grateful for their visits.
Franz shares more about Youth Music Society below…
I am proud of my ability to lead and my overall willingness to help, whether it be organizing concerts for the elderly, or more contained matters, such as volunteering at summer camps. Several years ago, I took these ideas and founded a small, non-profit organization called the Youth Music Society of San Francisco. This organization consists of myself along with a several of my friends and classmates. Our aim is to bring concerts to those who cannot access them by normal means – this typically leads us to senior centers and senior homes, where we play music for the elderly. We typically put on concerts several times a year, usually occurring during our school breaks.
Therefore, there are usually one or two holiday concerts during our winter break, another during spring break, and few more during the summer. We have also organized a few benefit concerts, including one to help support the San Francisco Boys’ Chorus 2011 Russia Tour – the money we raised help pay for choristers’ travel needs.
Ever since I was young, I would periodically play at my grandparents’ senior apartment for their holiday parties, most often during the Lunar New Year celebration. After each performance, I would have many tearful elders come up to thank me. Using this inspiration, I have continued the tradition over the past several years. Playing music for these elders with my organization has deepened and ignited a passion in playing for them. The happiness of these seniors matters most to me, and through these concerts I am able to share my passion and joy with them.
Involving myself with these activities has allowed me to see the world with a brighter perspective. In this sense, playing music at senior centers and senior homes has helped me understand how much our elders appreciate music. I imagine these experiences will be invaluable to my future, where I will continue to provide music for those who are willing to accept it.
While on tour, we have visited some really inspiring music programs in schools across the country. For our taping with the Colorado Symphony this January, we had the opportunity to connect with El Sistema Colorado – a program dedicated to “transform[ing] the lives of children through music.” They are in residence at the Garden Place Academy in Denver, where we brought performer Emily Switzer (a Denver-based violinist!) to meet a group of fourth grade students involved in the program.
Emily shared a variety of repertoire, from a regal Bach to a flashy Paganini. She also wanted to see just how much these students knew about the violin, asking them how different parts of the instrument contribute to the sound. The young musicians were so excited to answer that they were practically leaping out of their seats!
Another memorable moment was Emily’s impromptu performance of “Jingle Bells” – a piece that the students had just performed for their holiday concert. After the performance, their teacher noted how hearing Emily perform that familiar piece with such talent was very inspiring for the students, demonstrating how they could keep improving on one piece of repertoire.
You can watch these highlights and more in the video below – enjoy!
Nicholas King is a Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award recipient who appeared on Show 177 in New Albany, Ohio, and the experience was life-changing. He says, “From the Top and the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation showed me the importance of supporting young musicians. Without the scholarship from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation I wouldn’t have been able to attend school. The performance on NPR allowed me a great performance opportunity, as well as chance to meet other talented musicians.”
After appearing on the show, Nicholas attended the Glenn Gould School at the renowned Royal Conservatory of Music where he received his performance diploma, along with the title of being the first freshman to ever win their Concerto Competition. Nicholas also received a standing ovation for his concert performance at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in July of 2010. Now, Nicholas is helping guide young performers along the same musical path with his own non-profit organization, Art of Giving Back.
In their own words, the volunteer artists at Art of Giving Back “share their time and talents to teach and mentor young musicians. We help them to develop their own talents and leadership skills which will last a lifetime.” Nicholas organized the program so that graduate level musicians could help instruct young aspiring performers to advance professionally. The program’s team of professional volunteers guides young artists in applying to professional music programs, setting up performances, and improving their skills.
The program offers free workshops that focus on practicing, performing, and applying to music schools. Nicholas explains that the workshops are “interactive and informative – we share our experiences with the class and answer any questions that they might have.” Art of Giving Back offers master classes to music middle and high schools. Nicholas and his fellow instructors also connect with young musicians through The Young Artist Forum online, where musicians can give and receive feedback to each other.
When we spoke with Nicholas about the future of the organization, he expressed his hope for it’s growth, saying “I would like this to become a world-wide organization. I believe that we offer a much needed service to musicians everywhere. No musician should feel like they’re alone.”
To learn more about Nicholas and Art of Giving Back, visit their website at http://www.artofgivingback.org
From the Top loves reaching out to the communities we visit on our tour! While we were in Dallas in January, we brought three young musicians to visit a group of teens at the Pleasant Grove Branch Library. Our soloists were Russell Houston (age 18, cello), Aakash Patel (age 19, violin), and Chase Dobson (age 16, composer) – all good friends from Dallas!
They shared some of their favorite pieces with the group, and talked about why they believe classical music is so cool. Russell shared that he loves the diversity of the repertoire and demonstrated this by sharing two very different pieces: the exciting Kodály Sonata for Solo Cello followed by a thoughtful Bach Prelude (from Suite No. 4 in E-flat Major). One teen in the audience went so far as to compare Russell’s Kodály performance to Van Halen!
Aakash gave the group another perspective, talking about the opportunities provided by learning an instrument. When he was first starting out on the violin, for example, he loved having the chance to perform his favorite movie music. He demonstrated this by playing the Star Wars and Godfather themes. Chase spoke from a composer’s perspective, sharing how music has the ability to give you a new “voice.” He talked about what it’s like to write new music and create something all your own, using his composition that we featured on our show (Piano Trio No.1 – “II. Sporting of the Gods) as an example.
Aakash also wanted to let the group know that anyone can do music, speaking about how he got started with nothing more than a $50 violin and YouTube videos for “lessons”. He shared that his From the Top performance with the Dallas Symphony was a “dream come true,” and that a love of music has made him the person he is today.
UPDATE AS OF 2.9.13 at 7:20 PM:
As you know winter storm Nemo has caused us to cancel From the Top’s Saturday, February 9 live taping event at NEC’s Jordan Hall. Unfortunately, we are unable to reschedule.
We are pleased to offer ticket buyers several options for purchased tickets:
Exchange. We would be happy to exchange your tickets to our next live taping at NEC’s Jordan Hall on Sunday, October 6, 2013 at 2 PM. If you are interested in this option, please email Robin Allen LaPlante at email@example.com with the subject line “EXCHANGE” and we will confirm your ticket exchange.
Donate: Please consider turning your ticket purchase into a tax-deductible, charitable gift to help From the Top carry out its mission of celebrating the power of music in the hands of extraordinary young people. If you are interested in this option, please email Robin Allen LaPlante at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “DONATE” and we will confirm your donation.
Refund: If you would like your ticket purchase refunded, please email Robin Allen LaPlante at email@example.com with the subject line “REFUND” and we will issue you a refund.
In case you are wondering, we were fortunate to be able to move our recording into a studio at WGBH, so you’ll be able to catch this wonderful group of performers on Classical New England, 99.5 FM, on March 17 at 11:00 AM.
We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to see you at a future From the Top taping!
Since playing for rescue workers at Ground Zero following the September 11th attacks, From the Top alum William Harvey has made it his life’s mission to bridge cultures and promote peace through music. As one of the first young musicians to ever appear on From the Top back in 1999, we reconnected with William during our 10th anniversary season in 2009 to learn about the non-profit he founded, Cultures in Harmony. It turns out we caught him at the beginning of an amazing new journey…he revealed to us then that he was going to move to Kabul to be a violin teacher at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music. Was he crazy to move to a country that had for much of the past twenty years banned music?
Fast forward three years, William is one of seven Western teachers at the institute, which teaches 150 students, half of whom have grown up on the streets. Significantly, in a country where access to education is difficult for women, there are 35 female music students. In addition to teaching private violin lessons, William is also the conductor of the Afghan Youth Orchestra. This February, he and his colleagues brought 48 Afghan students to the United States for the first time.
“It’s the responsibility of a musician to defend the right of human beings everywhere to be musical and to express themselves through music. We’re celebrating a victory: the return of music,” William told The New York Times.
William and his colleagues from the Afghanistan National Institute of Music performed at the Kennedy Center (February 7), Carnegie Hall (February 12), and New England Conservatory (February 14).
NPR: From a Land Where Music Was Banned
From the Top has inspired the writers on America’s Favorite Quiz Show®, JEOPARDY! On Monday, February 4, JEOPARDY! contestants in the teen tournament were put to the test on their knowledge of all things classical music, under the category entitled “From the Top.” Our logo was even on the game board!
After our taping at the Sarasota Opera House this past December, we brought performers Jennifer Kim (guitar), Kaitlyn Resler (horn), and From the Top alum Abe Feder (cello) to meet a dynamic group of students involved in the Visual & Performing Arts (VPA) program at Booker High School. The presentation featured our performers playing some solo pieces and talking about musical experiences, and gave the VPA audience ample opportunity to share their own ideas and questions with the performers.
We had a great discussion on issue of stage fright, talking about ways that we as performers can learn to cope with our nerves. Abe, as the principal cellist with the Sarasota Orchestra, had a ton of fabulous ideas. Check out the video below to see some highlights from our conversation:
Because these presentations took place…right after the holidays, I wanted to bring some happiness to these kids who have been through so much hardship. Furthermore, I wanted to introduce them to music that they normally would not be so exposed to.”
Percussionist and Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Eric Segerstrom (Show 237) wanted to connect with children from his hometown who hadn’t had the same musical opportunities that he had growing up, so he reached out to the Parsons Child & Family Center: a residential facility for families and children coping with domestic hardship. Working with three separate groups of kids at the center, Eric performed a combination of classical and hip-hop works on marimba, and then helped the kids build their own instruments using paper plates and plastic cups. At the end of the event was a full-group performance using the newly made instruments. The experience provided Eric with a whole new perspective on the ways he can share classical music with younger audiences.
We asked Eric to share more with us about his visit to the Parsons Center…
FTT: How did these presentations differ from your previous work with kids?
Eric: Before this, whenever I worked with kids, they were privileged and fortunate New York City kids who wanted to learn a little more about composition. Yet talking about classical music with kids who have no background in it, while also trying to make it fun and exciting, is a lot harder than it sounds. For the first time, I really felt like I had to step up to show these kids what I knew and how music can be new and fun.
FTT: What were some of the challenges you encountered?
Eric: The most challenging moment for me was the first presentation: I had almost no idea what to expect going into it. I had been prepped a little beforehand by one of the Directors of Therapeutic Recreation, who suggested just working with the kids and going with the things they wanted to do. However, this is really tough advice to follow when you aren’t getting any visible feedback from your audience! Before I knew it, I had gone through all of the pieces I had prepared with 45 minutes left in the presentation! I was a little embarrassed, and felt badly that I hadn’t done what I had hoped to do. I went home and came up with a few more ideas for the next presentation, including combining their interest in hip-hop with classical music. I felt much more prepared the next day.
FTT: What were some memorable moments?
Eric: The most memorable moments were definitely those in which I realized that I had left some sort of impact on the kids. On my last day at the Parsons Center, there was a particularly rambunctious kid who spent much of his time with me running around the room and flailing his newly made shaker in the air. When everyone had left and I was packing up, one of the Directors told me that she had never seen that kid so happy for so long.
Another memorable moment was my second day: this was the smallest group I played for with only three or four kids. However, they were so genuinely interested in the marimba and the music I was playing that their questions filled up a majority of the presentation!
FTT: What did you take away from this experience?
Eric: I think my time at the Parson’s Center showed that music can help people, even if it’s in a small way. The kids that I worked with all seemed pretty happy when they left, and I think it piqued an interest in some, or at least a curiosity, to the idea of classical music and the marimba. This is why I strongly believe that funding for the arts cannot be cut out of school or federal budgets…the impact of a creative and emotional outlet can be vastly underestimated, especially when it comes to kids.
FTT: What do you think it means to be an arts leader?
Eric: To me, being an arts leader is about giving back and passing on what you know. As a college student, I’m in a rather unique position: I have knowledge that I can pass on to kids, peers, or even adults about music and composition, yet I am young enough that my peers and younger kids can relate to me more so than they would to an adult. I got to this point because of other people who took the time to teach me and pass on what they knew. I believe that being an arts leader is really about using what you know to benefit others, whether it is by teaching, performing, writing, or speaking.
Check out this video created by the Parsons Child & Family Center with highlights from Eric’s visit: