From the Top’s Summer Audition Tour

Although From the Top doesn’t tape many radio shows during the summer, our staff keep busy during these hot months with an important and exciting task – holding live auditions for our NPR radio show.

Live auditions are an opportunity for us to hear young musicians in a different and fun capacity; most of our auditions come in by mail. Recent stops our live audition tour included Boston University Tanglewood Institute (BUTI), Interlochen Center for the Arts, Brevard Music Center (BMC), and Aspen Music Festival (AMF).  Below are some highlights from the travels of Tim Banker, Caroline Cardiasmenos, Megan Lantz, and Tom Vignieri.

News From Interlochen Center for the Arts:

Tim Banker

Tim Banker reports: “As usual, our Interlochen auditions are a real marathon for the brain as we see kids from 9am to 9pm (no exaggeration).  The level at Interlochen is very high and so it’s pretty inspiring.  It really doesn’t get boring.  Interlochen is totally international so we also heard amazing kids from locations as far flung as Israel and Peru.

One of the terrifying things about Interlochen is when you try to get breakfast at the cafeteria at like 7:40am.  Why?  Because at 7:45am about 1,000 kids have to be at their orchestras or rehearsals or classes and it’s like experiencing a buffalo stampede in all directions except the buffalo are all carrying bananas, half filled bowls of cereal and jelly lined pieces of toast.  I was half asleep at the time and simply froze to protect myself. Pretty funny.”

From the Top staffers also delighted in an Interlochen tradition: The Melody Freeze, which is, according to Tim, “a gloriously mobbed ice cream stand from which you can buy $1 soft serve.”  Yum!

Music and From the Top Alums at BUTI:

Tom Vignieri

At the Boston University Tanglewood Institute, Tom, Caroline, Megan had a great day of auditions, hearing a number of excellent prospects for the show ranging from strings to winds and brass.

“I feel so lucky to be able to regularly visit Tanglewood, the western Massachusetts summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra,” says Caroline.  “I was lucky to participate in programs there two summers when I was in high school and I still feel the same excitement driving through the main gates.”

Over the weekend, Tom visited the Tanglewood main grounds to hear Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms paired with Mozart’s Requiem.  There, he sought out recent From the Top 10th anniversary alum Keitaro “Kei” Harada.  Keitaro is one of only three conducting fellows at Tanglewood Music Center this summer. Tom says, “Kei is more than holding his own, already working with Michael Tilson Thomas and now Christoph von Dohnanyi who Kei is assisting on the big opera production of the summer, Strauss’s “Ariadne auf Naxos.” Click here to read Kei’s updates from Tanglewood.

Tom also attended an afternoon BUTI Young Artists Orchestra concert that included a performance of Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 and Respighi’s “Pines of Rome” at Ozawa Hall.  He saw several From the Top alums including double bassist Kiyoe Wellington, trumpet player Dominic Favia, Jack Kent Cook Young Artist Sodie Finebone (who recently played the tuba for our Gettysburg show, which airs September 20), and timpanist Ted Babcock.

Hanging Out at Brevard Music Center:

Caroline Cardiasmenos

At Brevard Music Center, Caroline had the opportunity to visit briefly with Maestro Keith Lockhart before his morning rehearsal of Wagner’s Tannhäuser with the Brevard Music Center Orchestra (BMCO).

She notes, “The BMCO is the top orchestra here, and is composed of college, high school and faculty musicians. Brevard utilizes the side-by-side orchestra concept, which is a special opportunity for the students!  Hearing that sound was the perfect way for me to start a fabulous day of auditions.” (If you’re not familiar with the term, the “side-by-side” concept is where aspiring musicians perform literally side by side with accomplished musicians.  It’s an excellent teaching tool.)

At the end of the day, Caroline enjoyed catching up with Utah Symphony orchestra trombonist and BMC faculty member Bill Zehfuss:  “I chatted with him at the rehearsal in the morning and then happened to end up at the same restaurant as him later that night.  It’s so great to be able to catch up with our faculty friends on these trips.”

Across the Country at Aspen Music Festival:

This was Caroline’s first opportunity to travel to Colorado and gosh did she have fun!

“When you wheel in to the Aspen Music Festival campus, the first thing you notice is the sound of rushing water.  Castle creek runs right next to the main buildings.  That, and the gorgeous high peaks surrounding Aspen are the backdrop for a day’s worth of top notch auditions.”

Caroline spent her first day at AMF’s College Conservatory Day answering questions and rounding up additional young performers to audition: “Sometimes young performers can be hesitant to sign up for live auditions when they’re in the midst of intensive summer training.  Maybe they feel they don’t have a solo work prepared because they’ve been working on ensemble repertoire or they’re afraid they’ll be too tired to play their best after a long day of rehearsals.  We try to encourage them to look at this as an opportunity they should absolutely take.  Us “From the Toppers” are experienced running these auditions and know what the summer institute environments are like.  We are always happy to hear performers sooner than later, even if it doesn’t work out the first time.”

On her second day, Caroline ran the auditions: “Audition after audition is an inspiration for me as a musician.  And when you’re in a magical environment like Aspen, it’s even more touching.”

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