A Day in the Life of a Juilliard Pre-College Student

by violinist and From the Top alumna Caeli Smith

Sidney Lim, cello; Clare Yeo (a FTT alum), piano; Erin White, viola; and me.

Caeli's quartet outside Juilliard's Morse Hall

Greetings everyone! As From The Top’s Roving Reporter I’ve done interviews and skits with fantastic young performers, teachers, and musical celebrities — such as yourself. But you might not know that I am also a serious classical violinist. I’ve been involved in music programs in my hometown Philadelphia ever since I was little, and in the past my lessons and classes were scheduled throughout the week. This year I was curious to try out one of the comprehensive all-day pre-college programs in New York. Read more.

Alums in Action

priscellachan1It’s always the season to give back, and From the Top alums have been busy reaching out to help others. The following was submitted by alumna Priscella Chan:

Ever since I was nine, I’ve been involved with a non-profit organization called Musical Connections, which is dedicated to spreading music awareness throughout the community in Southern California. We perform concerts at retirement homes, organize a yearly benefit concert to raise money to donate pianos to nursing homes (we’ve donated eight so far!), and provide free music lessons for mentally disabled children. This past summer I was a counselor with their summer music camp. Read more.

Alumni Updates!

13-year-old Anna Lee, who has performed on From the Top’s radio and TV shows, was featured on the cover of the Wall Street Journal Magazine with her valuable violin, a loan from the Stradivari Society. Read about this amazing gift that keeps on giving.

Harpist Melody Lindsay, who was on From the Top’s radio show in 2004 when she was 13, was the recipient of the first Dora Derby Award from the Honolulu Symphony Associates and has received a 2008 Morning Music Club Scholarship.

Violinist Emma Steele, who was on From the Top’s radio show back in 2002, when she was 12 and recently reappeared on From the Top at Carnegie Hall with the Ridere Quartet, is now concertmaster of The Carnegie Mellon Philharmonic. Check out the excellent review of her playing contained in this article!

Since performing on From the Top’s radio show back in 2001 when he was 12, pianist Ronald Thompson has performed at Carnegie Hall twice as well as at the International Music Festival in Prague. He has also won numerous national and international competitions. 

Double bassist Nathaniel West, who performed on a recent airing of From the Top’s radio show, was recently selected as a finalist for the NFAA youngARTS program. He will be one of twenty musicians to travel to Miami Florida in January to participate in a week long program consisting of performances and masterclasses.

Are you a From the Top alum with news to share? Send your updates our way!

Robert McDuffie and Friends Labor Day Festival for Strings

by Roving Reporter Caeli Smith (excerpt from Violinist.com)

As back-to-school season crept up on us and the few precious days left of summer were trickling away, fifteen of my fellow teenage string players and myself decided to spend them sweating it out in Atlanta at the Robert McDuffie and Friends Labor Day Festival for Strings!

Caeli's quartet with their coach, David Halen

Caeli's quartet with their coach, David Halen

The Festival is five days long, carried out over Labor Day weekend. Sixteen kids, rising juniors or seniors in high school, were treated to an all-expense paid preview of conservatory life at the Robert McDuffie Center for Strings, a two-year old program at Mercer University in Macon, GA. Read more.

Gabe Cabezas in Strings Magazine

gabecabezasTeenage cellist and From the Top alum Gabriel Cabezas wrote a great article for Strings Magazine about preparing for a music career. Check it out!

Life at Bard Conservatory

by From the Top alum Shawn Moore

shawnmooreNinety miles up the Hudson valley from New York City near the quaint towns of Red Hook and Tivoli, the Bard College Conservatory of Music lies on a quiet bank of the Hudson River. I’m now in my third year of the school’s unusual program, in which all conservatory students are obligated to select an academic major in addition to their instrumental studies.

Students are given five years to complete the program, and graduate with performance and liberal arts degrees. It might sound like a tall order suitable only for incurable bookworms, but with the right organization it is entirely workable. The key ingredient to managing all of this daily hustle and bustle without giving up your life is, of course, time management! College dragged me kicking and screaming into the world of binders, pocket calendars, and post-it notes. Organization and clear daily goals throughout the semester became űber-important for avoiding disastrous procrastination.

When I applied for school, I wanted to be a musician, but my other interests were wide ranging and I knew I couldn’t lock myself up in a practice room all day. I decided the solution was to supplement music with an academic education, as opposed to going to, say, Juilliard, where I might have wasted a lot of time that is now better applied toward towards becoming acquainted with the world outside of music. Of course, the time to practice eight hours a day does not exist here, but if you accept that musical creation doesn’t come from a vacuum in the practice room, then the double degree is an opportunity not to be missed. For all those who love to explore the realms of science, literature, history and any others that have over the years inspired composers to create their works of genius, it is a chance to reaffirm that relationship, which of late has languished. A typical day might find me dashing from a class on modern logic to rehearse a Shostokovich quartet, then on to Chinese language tutorial. The worlds of academia and music here are inextricably linked. Of course, everything does at times become rather crazy, rushing to finish a paper or memorize the last movement of a concerto with no time to spare, but despite the stress this wild and rich atmosphere also supplies a constant stream of inspiring cross-pollination that I’ve found invaluable to my music.  Continue reading


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