Greetings from beautiful Atlanta, Georgia, where it is a sunny 64 degrees (my poor colleagues back in Boston are dealing with much chillier temperatures)!
We had a great taping last night at the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts at Emory University. It was really fun reconnecting with this show’s 10th Anniversary Alumni guest Melissa White, who was on our show ten years ago and is now a professional violinist with the Harlem String Quartet. Seeing Christopher O’Riley collaborate with her was amazing. He’s clearly a big fan of her playing and positively lit up when they were working through the piece together.
There were lots of other memorable moments. The show’s opening performers, a duo called Music Two Share, are both obsessed with Tolkien, and Chris engaged in a conversation in Elvish with one of them. Pianist Ming Wilson, who played Liszt, was the tallest 13-year-old I’ve ever met (6’1″)! There was an amazingly talented 15-year-old bassist named Xavier Foley who played Bottesini and demonstrated what he called “the money stroke” — the stroke you need play to get into a top orchestra. Finally, the show closed with the fabulous Emory Youth Symphony Orchestra performing a piece by William Walton. You’ll hear it all the week of December 7 when the show airs nationally.
Probably my favorite moment in last night’s show was a special dedication by a member of the audience. Her name is Zhanna Arshanskaya and she is a holocaust survivor who was able to endure through her ability to play music. She eventually went on to attend the Juilliard School and teach piano at Indiana University. She stood up and dedicated a piece on the show to Chris, whom she called “the ambassador of music ” for young people. Earlier that day, Zhanna and I had a conversation in which she expressed her dream that one day From the Top would extend past the U.S. and be broadcast all over the world. How cool would that be?
Off to Denison University in Granville, Ohio for another taping. I’ll catch up with you in a few!