Alum Solly Burton: Upcoming Performances and Children’s Workshop

From the Top alum and mandolin player Solly Burton (Show 197 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa) will be sharing his music next weekend (Oct 8 and 9) through radio appearances and live performances with Gibbs & Main, a Rochester, New York chamber music ensemble. Solly will also be giving a workshop “Kidsemble” with Terry Smith, Music Explorer for children K-6th grade and their families on October 9th.

Solly Perfoming in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Below is the schedule for his events – If you’re in the Rochester area, check it out!

Friday October 8, 2010, 11am-12pm
Gibbs & Main with Solly Burton on WRUR’s Open Tunings
WRUR 88.5 FM

Friday October 8, 2010, 7:30pm
American Icons with Solly Burton, mandolin
Blackbox Theatre at the Geneva Community Center
160 Carter Road
Geneva, New York
Suggested Donation: Adults $10, Children $5, Seniors/Students $8

Saturday October 9, 2010, 9am-12pm
Gibbs & Main and Solly Burton on WXXI’s Classical 91.5 with Chris Van Hof
WXXI 91.5 FM

Saturday October 9, 2010, 2pm-3:30pm
Kidsemble featuring Solly Burton on mandolin and Terry Smith, Music Explorer
For children K-6th grade and their families. Make instruments, meet Solly and the musicians of Gibbs & Main, and participate in this highly interactive concert!
Admission is free, but due to limited seating reservations are recommended.
Call Terry Smith at 585-224-8676 or email
The Harley School
1981 Clover Street
Rochester, New York

Saturday October 9, 2010, 8pm
American Icons with Solly Burton, mandolin
Admission: Adults $10, Children $5, Seniors/Students $8
Order tickets online at or pay cash at the door
The Harley School
1981 Clover Street
Rochester, New York

Tasting the Rainbow: Teen Arts Performance Camp 2010

From the Top alum and violinist Karen Cueva, who performed on Show 187 in Boston, MA in October 2008, had a remarkable summer participating in the Teen Arts Performance Camp (T.A.P. Camp) in Maryland as a teaching artist. Below, Karen explains the idea behind T.A.P. Camp and discusses some of the amazing experiences she had with music and the arts this summer. Her blog is a little long, but it’s really inspiring and well worth the read!

My name is Karen Cueva and I am a proud From The Top alum as well as a second year violinist at The Juilliard School.  Being a Juilliard student has many advantages: there are our great teachers, phenomenal performing opportunities, and, of course, living in New York City’s Upper West Side.  However, one of the greatest parts of being a student at “the yard” is the wealth of educational outreach opportunities at our disposal.  Many organizations collaborate with Juilliard world-wide to give students the chance to pass their knowledge of their arts forward.  This past summer, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington, D.C. teamed up with Juilliard for their annual Teen Arts Performance (T.A.P.) Camp.  After applications and interviews, a group of eleven students were chosen as teaching artists to go to the picturesque Camp Brown in the outskirts of Maryland.

The Teaching Artist Team

I was so privileged to have been of such a fantastic group of artists and friends who struck the perfect balance of professionalism and exuberance for teaching during our five weeks together.  I will be forever changed as a violinist and as a person by my experiences at T.A.P.  I am glad I can share them with the From The Top audience. Continue reading

Building Schools in Afghanistan, One Concert at a Time: Part 1

From the Top alum Leeza Ali has been embarking on quite the Arts Leadership project for the past few years. She’s been holding concerts to raise money for P.E.C.A. – Partnership for the Education of Children in Afghanistan. We will cover her work in a blog series – below you can read about Leeza’s inspiration for this project and about the first concert.

Leeza performs "Two Pianos, Eight Hands" on From the Top in June 2010

When I was in 8th grade, an exchange student from Afghanistan came to our school. She spoke to us about the living conditions back in her home country. With the Taliban and the distressing political situation, it was very hard for girls to obtain an education. Often children would have to walk for many miles to get to school, many not even able to afford shoes or a book bag. Students often had to sit on the floor even when it was damp and wet from rain. Students would be lucky to have a bathroom, and it was rare to have a book or writing utensil to keep. She talked about the fear and difficulty she went through each day and how lucky she felt to be in MN for her studies.My sister (then a senior) and I were inspired to do something for girls in Afghanistan. At the time, my sister Nora was part of the “Diversity Leadership” committee, a volunteer organization of high school student leaders who run a variety of charity and fundraising events.  Nora and I had the idea of starting a concert series that would raise money for the organization P.E.C.A. – Partnership for the Education of Children in Afghanistan. This charity builds schools in Afghanistan for children, some specifically for girls, with the mission of providing a healthy and safe environment to educate the youth of the more dangerous provinces of Afghanistan. We pitched the idea to this committee, run by Nora’s history teacher, Mr. Schultz, and they thought it was a great idea. Continue reading

Spotlight on Christopher O’Riley

Photo by Wendy Lynch

So often on this blog we highlight the accomplishments of our young musicians, but today we’re turning the spotlight on our very own host, Christopher O’Riley.

As an acclaimed pianist, Christopher doesn’t just host From the Top. He does concerts around the country and is a Distinguished Visiting Artist at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge from 2010 to 2013.

Currently, Christopher is in Baton Rouge for a recital as part of his LSU residency, but he’ll be back in Ohio to open the new season of Cuyahoga Community College’s Classical Piano Recital Series at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 3. This event is held at the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Gartner Auditorium, 11150 East Blvd, Cleveland and tickets are $10-15, available by calling 216-987-4444.

Take a second and check out this great article that discusses a concert he did last week in the Signature Series at Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio. Christopher may be well known for his arrangements of popular pop and rock songs, but for this concert he performed Bach’s English Suite No. 6 in D minor and Stravinsky’s “Apollon Musagete,” among other works.

The video interview with Christopher below was produced by Cool Cleveland, and talks about the young musicians on From the Top.

Our fall radio tour takes us to Baton Rouge for a broadcast taping on Tuesday, November 2 at the Union Theater. More information is available here. Hope to see you there!

From the Top Rap, by the Emerald Quartet!

The Emerald Quartet, who performed on this week’s show from Gettysburg, PA, put together a really funny “From the Top Rap.” We made it into a video for you!

Check it out:

Announcing From the Top’s Center for Arts Leadership!

We are excited to announce a special grant from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation to launch From the Top’s Center for Arts Leadership! Housed in Boston, the Center (CAL)  empowers young musicians towards action and service in their communities, inspiring them to take it beyond the concert hall.

Arts Leadership has been part of our core programs since 2004 and this new opportunity will allow us to further develop and evaluate this effort. Bolstered by From the Top’s national reach through our weekly radio and television broadcasts, the Center for Arts Leadership is uniquely positioned to inspire a movement of young people to redefine what it means to be a musician today.

We are currently recruiting high school and college freshmen and sophomore musicians in the Boston area to join us for the first year of this exciting initiative. During this yearlong program, participants will work in teams at partner sites across Boston to design and implement a community service project and will participate in ongoing leadership workshops. This is an amazing opportunity to use music to make a difference! Click here to learn more about the Center for Arts Leadership and download an application.

And announcing another opportunity to support new or existing projects…Boston-based high school and college-age musicians can receive grant money through the Margaret Stewart Lindsay Awards! From the Top is requesting proposals that focus on community-based projects beginning in January 2011. This is an opportunity for young musicians to use their talent and creativity to make a difference in people’s lives. Up to four grants will be awarded, ranging from $250 -$1000. Click here for more information and to download an application.

Hyung-Do Kim Shares His Music with Senior Citizens of Edgewater, NJ

14-year-old pianist and Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist, Hyung-Do Kim recently performed on our show in Gettysburg, PA. During the Arts Leadership orientation held the following morning, we learned that he and his sister, a violinist, have been performing regularly for the residents of Waterford Towers, a retirement center located in Edgewater, New Jersey, for the past two years. Hyung-Do wants to share his love for classical music, and performing for senior citizens is one way he hopes to give back to the community.

Hyung-Do at the Waterford Towers retirement center

Continue reading

Show 218: Listening Guide

This week’s show was taped at the Gettysburg Festival in Gettysburg, PA on Friday June 18, 2010. We asked our performers to tell us about the music they performed on the show and to reflect on their From The Top experience after the show was completed:

Sodienye FineboneSodienye (Sodie) Finebone, 18, tuba
III. Allegro giocoso from Concerto for Tuba
By: Edward Gregson

I love this piece. When I play it I think of “Star Wars.”  My favorite part of this piece is….the end…not only do you get the satisfaction of being done but you finish with a bang! This piece of music invokes the imagination and tells the story of a super hero.

This piece is very special because it was the piece I performed with the Atlanta Symphony. This was also the very first concerto I performed on the tuba. The most important thing to get across is a story of a hero. The hardest things to nail are the technical licks. This piece does not compare to any piece I’ve performed. Although I know I will be playing and performing a lot more works this particular piece will always stay with me because I just have a blast while playing it.

Post Show Reflection: Playing in the Majestic Theater was such a big honor. Not only did I get to be a part of American history, I got to play along side with Christopher O’Riley, which is an honor in itself.

Elaine Kang, 16, violin
Carmen Fantasy
By: Pablo de Sarasate

I envision Carmen’s personality when I play this. She is very headstrong, quite mischievous and has a volatile mood…I also try to keep the color red in my mind while I play this – not just the bright red we commonly see, but different shades of red including a darker, sultrier red, and a playful, lighter red. If I could pick out a specific reason why I love [this piece], I would say because it makes me feel dangerous.

I think the most special thing about this piece is the fact that it’s adapted from an opera. It gives the performer and listener a story to visualize while the notes fly by, and it’s interesting how perfectly the music intertwines with the plot. I think technically, I can definitely say this has been one of the most challenging pieces I have ever played. Especially when entering the last movement, the speed at which your hand has to move throughout the piece can become nerve wracking.

Post Show Reflection: It was amazing performing this on From The Top. I’ve never had so much fun performing Carmen, and for 5 minutes, I actually felt like I was Carmen. I just want to say that everything seems more intimidating than it actually is, and everyone including all the staff makes it the most memorable experience. When I was on that stage, I rediscovered how much I love music and love performing and that while ultimately, it’s possible I may take a different path in life, I will always play and cherish music.

Kathryn Westerlund, 13, cello
II. Allegro from Sonata in D Minor, Op. 40
By: Dimitri Shostakovich

I really like the energy, the excitement, and the colors this piece has (very orange). When I play it, I think about this paper monster named Oogles, who I hang in staircases at the Pennsylvania Academy of Music to try and scare people (it doesn’t always work). My favorite part about this piece is the doodly harmonic thingies, and my least favorite part is the end, because then it’s over!

The most important thing to nail in this piece is probably those octaves, because if one gets out of tune, the rest sound bad. Compared to other pieces I’ve performed, it has some exquisite “woohoo” stuff to it.

Post Show Reflection: Playing on stage for From the Top was a thrilling experience. I was so excited when I walked on stage. It was great to see such a huge, excited audience! The entire experience was one of the best performance opportunities of my life. It was an absolute honor!

Hyung-Do Kim, 14, piano
No. 3 La Campanella from Six Grandes Études de Paganini
By:  Franz Liszt

This piece, La Campanella, by Franz Liszt means “The Little Bell.”  My favorite part in the piece is all the large leaps and jumps that occur repeatedly throughout the piece. The music invokes images of bells ringing in the air, which is that high D# that the right hand plays. Although the piece is difficult, it is an enjoyable piece to play. The original theme is how the piece starts off, and it gets more and more elaborated as variations as the theme reoccurs.

The most important thing to get across in the piece is to get the high D#’s (bells) ringing whenever the theme reappears and to keep the bell essence. The hardest thing in the piece is to get all the repeating notes to sound and also to keep a consistent tempo for the majority of the piece. Compared to other pieces, La Campanella is made of a simple melody that gets turned into something much more difficult.

Post Show Reflection: To perform this piece for the radio show, it really was a wonderful experience. It did feel different from other performances – It was more fun and enjoyable to play. I didn’t feel nervous at all – the interview and performance was really comfortable…it really was a great three days. You learn so much more from that short amount of time and everything was an awarding experience.

Piano QuartetEmerald Quartet
Marko Dreher, Coach
Music Institute of Chicago

Clayton Penrose-Whitmore, 17, viola
IV. Rondo alla zingarese from Piano Quartet No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 25
By: Johannes Brahms

I love this because it is very catchy and dance like, but also has a very beautiful melody midway through the piece. The ending is especially awesome and energetic and you can never get tired of playing it. I learned a lot working with Christopher O’Riley on this piece. He was a very good coach for our group and gave a lot of great pointers. He also took the ending the fastest I’ve ever heard it which was also pretty exciting.

Ethan Hoppe, 18, violin
IV. Rondo alla zingarese from Piano Quartet No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 25
By: Johannes Brahms

This piece is constant excitement all the way through. It’s like a high-energy gypsy dance. My favorite part is the really fast ending. It’s difficult to play the piece loudly and with a lot of excitement without being very rough and sloppy. This is what I try most to avoid, so I must hold myself back from getting completely carried away by the music.

Alexander Hersh, 16, cello
IV. Rondo alla zingarese from Piano Quartet No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 25
By: Johannes Brahms

The piece is incredible. The ending is my favorite part and the most fun to play just because it gets so epic and out of control. It essentially ends in a total state of chaos, and yet it’s incredible. The first rehearsal we had with Chris O’Riley on this, I remember not expecting to play the ending like we did. It was so fast and awesome. Great fun playing it! What is special about this piece is the almost gypsy like nature of it, but still in a Brahms like manner. The hardest part is the lyrical middle section between the cello and violin. It’s so exposed and hard to make beautiful.

Umi Garrett Shows How Classical Performance Can be for All Ages

(courtesy of

9 year-old pianist and Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Umi Garrett (who appeared on last week’s From the Top broadcast with the Boston Pops) joined the Desert Symphony on their Children’s Music Discovery Series to perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto no.23 in A Major. The concert was held on April 16, 2010 at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert, CA for an audience of more than 1,000 children! Both Umi and the Desert Symphony hoped to expose Coachella Valley school children to the beauty and joy of classical music. She wanted her young audience to see that classical music is for every age, and that someone just like them can perform with an orchestra if they work hard and believe in themselves. Umi shares more about the experience:

“Maybe some kids had never been to a concert before and they learned the concert hall was really big. Or some kids who thought that classical music was really boring before discovered that classic music is actually really COOL. I think the kids really liked that a kid their age was a part of the concert.” Continue reading

Arianna Körting Captures First Place at the Julia Crane International Piano Competition

Arianna on Show 175 in Boston, March 2008

We just got news that From the Top alum Arianna Körting won first place in the 5th Julia Crane International Piano Competition. This is especially exciting because she’s the first ever contestant to receive a unanimous vote from the international jury!

This year’s competition took place from September 10-12 at the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam, and included 15 young classical pianists from all over the world. These musicians, aged 13 to 18 years old, gathered in Potsdam to compete for $5,000 in prizes and six top awards. Each contestant was required to perform a 25-minute standard program of solo repertoire before the jury, which included Eugenia Tsarov, Gary Busch, Marc Durand, Elier Suarez, François Germain, and Paul Wyse.

Arianna, now 16, is currently a scholarship piano student of Gerardo Teissonnière in the Preparatory Division at the Cleveland Institute of Music and is a junior at West Geauga High School in Chesterland, Ohio.

Congrats to Arianna!


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