Arts Leadership in Boston, MA

From the Top’s Arts Leadership Program empowers young artists to make a difference in their communities through what they love to do most: music. This past Monday, seven performers from our Boston taping joined us for the Arts Leadership Orientation, where they explored what Arts Leadership means to them. Every show presents a different cast of characters, and this dynamic group gave itself the name “Bosstland”: a play on the city and country of their origins (Boston + Iceland).

Performers participating in a silent writing activity

Here’s “Bosstland’s” definition of Arts Leadership:

  1. Bringing people together: old, young, poor, rich, natives, and foreigners
  2. Music can’t be taken away or segregated once it’s given.
  3. Leaving something more for someone else

At the end of our 3-hour session, we asked the group to film a 30-second clip to share their message for arts leadership and to capture their team spirit. Check it out below!

To learn more about the show, check out this week’s On the Road With Joanne Robinson, and be sure to tune in the week of November 15th to catch their show!


Alum Michael Brown Wins First Prize in the Concert Artists Guild

Michael on From the Top in 2004

Just got some great news from Pianist Michael Brown, who appeared on Show 109 in Lancaster, PA in November of 2004. He just won first prize in the prestigious 2010 Concert Artists Guild (CAG) competition in New York!

The CAG’s mission is to discover, nurture and promote young musicians. What’s especially cool about this concert is that winners receive a two year management contract. This contract includes career help and advancement in the form of booking performances, commissioning and recording opportunities, and marketing support. As a winner, Michael will also appear on the next season of CAG’s “Winners Series” in New York.

Michael is currently completing a masters in piano and composition at Juilliard.

Please join us in congratulating Michael on this great achievement!

On the Road with Joanne Robinson: Show 221 Boston, MA

Francesca Bass, 15

Hi everyone. Sunday we taped a wonderful show at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall in Boston. Let me dive right in and tell you all about it!

The show opened with teenage violinist Francesca Bass, playing one of my all-time favorite pieces, Pablo de Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen. After that exciting start, trumpeter Baldvin Oddsson took the stage to play from the Concerto for Trumpet by Henri Tomasi, a piece which shows off the wide range of color and sound the trumpet can produce in the hands of someone as good as Baldvin. Next up was an incredibly impressive young performer, 13-year-old pianist Kadar Qian, who treated the audience to some selections from Bach’s Goldberg Variations, which we’ve never before featured. He definitely won over the crowd!

Muhan Zhang plays the erhu on From the Top

I have to give special mention to Chris’s break piece. In honor of what would have been John Lennon’s 70th birthday, he played Lennon/McCartney’s “Blackbird” arranged by Mike Garson, which was a gorgeous and fitting tribute. (It also just happens to be my all time favorite Beatles tune!)

The second half of the show began with something completely unique. For the first time on the show we featured an erhu player. What is an erhu, you ask? Well, basically it’s a traditional Chinese classical instrument that could be described as vertical violin with two strings. That hardly does it justice though, so we will be posting a video 17-year-old Muhan Zhang demonstrating in exceptional detail the ins and outs of the erhu and playing from one of the pieces he played on the show, Sai Ma (Horse Race) by Huang Haihuai (stay tuned for that video which is coming soon!)

Closing the show was the PALS Children’s Chorus, directed by Alysoun Kegel. The chorus sang two pieces, the first being an original piece written by one of their members, 13-year-old Eleanor Bragg, and the second being an offbeat number called “Singing this Piece” which highlighted the various things chorus members were thinking as they sang the piece. A fun way to end a wonderful show!

Alums Hailey Markman and Tim Callobre Collaborate

Tim on From the Top in January, 2007

We just got wind of a cool From the Top alum collaboration. Soprano Hailey Markman (Show 209 in Waimea, Hawaii) got to know guitarist Tim Callobre (Shows 090 in Lubbock, Texas and 150 in Malibu, California and From the Top at Carnegie Hall) after a From the Top fundraiser in Los Angeles, and they ended up producing a song together!

Titled “Vai,” this song is a classical cross over and was produced by Marco Marinagneli, co-written by Marco and Tim, and sung by Hailey. Marco is a Grammy-nominated Italian composer, songwriter and producer, and has worked with Hailey in the past. As Tim also has a desire to compose, it was a great experience for him to work with Marco.

This is an incredibly beautiful song, and you can listen to it by clicking the link below.

Vai by Hailey Markman and Tim Callobre

Great Videos from Our Iowa Show!

As you can see from Joanne’s On the Road blog, we had a great time in Davenport and Parkersburg, Iowa! It turns out that one of our performers, alto saxophone player Justin Moser, has a father who loves do to video as a hobby. Mark Moser was kind enough to tape the performances from the non-broadcast show we did in Parkersburg and upload them to YouTube for us to share. These performances are the same as the ones that will appear on the Davenport show when it airs next week.

Check out the videos below to see these kids in action. After the videos, read a short story from Mark about why he does video production. The Davenport show airs the week of November 1, check your local listings here.

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“Where Are They Now?” – The Next Steps for Margaret Stewart Lindsay recipients

We are celebrating the achievements and future developments of our 2010 Margaret Stewart Lindsay Arts Leadership Award recipients. These five individuals represent the first cohort of From The Top’s Margaret Stewart Lindsay Award (MSL) projects and are all inspiring examples of leadership. Now, one year after it all started, we ask our MSL recipients to reflect on their journey and what they’ve learned along the way.

First we start with Jacob Shack, who applied for the award on behalf of the Andover-Lawrence Strings Program as the senior coordinator for the program. The grant money supplied new materials as well as training for the student teachers. Now a freshman at Harvard University, we asked him about his transition to college and what he’s taken away from the experience:

I have been at Harvard for almost two months now, and I am finding it exhilarating, intellectually challenging, and sometimes completely overwhelming. Upon my first visit back to Andover , I made sure to tell my friends, who are seniors this year, that there is no possible way you can be prepared for what college will throw at you.

I am a member of the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra, which, similarly to the Phillips Academy orchestras, rehearses on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. I am also taking a chamber music class, in which we receive one coaching a week and rehearse on our own time. As for the new stuff, I am “comp”-ing The Harvard Crimson, which is the only daily newspaper in the city of Cambridge.

Next semester, I plan to join a program called “Harmony,” which is very similar to the Andover Lawrence Strings Program that I coordinated at Phillips Academy. It consists of Harvard students providing private lessons on stringed instruments and piano to middle- and high-school aged children from Cambridge, with periodic concerts throughout the year. Although I do not have time for it this semester, I plan to build it into my schedule come Spring. Andover Lawrence Strings seems to have left an indelible mark on me, something that I can’t escape, even if I tried.

Stay tuned as we follow this inspiring program and the changes put in place through the award!

Our next MSL spotlight is Griffin Gaffney, a current sophomore at Harvard University. While still in high school Griffin developed the inspiring program Classical Chaps – a free violin lesson program for students grades 3 through 5. We asked Griffin to share more about what he learned from the program:

Classical Chaps started out as a small thought in the back of my mind but turned into something that continues to inform the choices I make everyday, especially with regards to school, my future and current projects here in Boston. It taught me quite a bit about myself, my community, how to be a leader and teacher, figure out how to get 3rd-5th graders to think that playing violin is fun– the list goes on. That being said, I find the following two points to be very pertinent:

  • Using What’s Already in place: Classical Chaps really taught me that the success of the program truly was in the fact that it pooled existent resources close to my community in a way that was new, effective and exciting.
  • Don’t Forget Your Starting Point: It’s important to look back at where you started and constantly evaluate your emotional satisfaction with how far you have come (or not).

Griffin is now working with Harvard classmate Noni Carter to develop an after-school music appreciation and writing class for middle school students in Boston. We asked him to share why he chose this project and what he has learned from the process:

Looking back onto my own years in middle school, I can confidently say that those years were horrendously awkward yet crucially formative. It’s a time when students begin dabbling in different extracurricular, social and cultural groups and start to map out the identity that they will carry with themselves into high school. What happens in middle school seems to hold an especially large amount of importance in a student’s development.

Though Noni has published a book and I have extensive background in music performance, we’re both writers and musicians in our own rights; we saw it as a very fitting idea to combine the two. I think students will gain a very unique, broad base of arts education from our combining of the two art forms. This, I believe, will really allow us to make many obvious connections between art and ‘real life’ in a way that’s more powerful than instrumental instruction on its own.

In the process of developing this project I’ve learned that it’s crucially important to start small. Because of the things I’ve done in the past I sometimes have a false sense of reality in my mind that tells me I can reach exorbitantly high goals. Numbers of students, grant money earned and other such ‘measures’ of success are truly insignificant when considering the passion that is inherent in creating such a project.

  • Highlight: meeting with schools. To actually set foot into a school that is eager to host our program and to meet students sets the wheels in motion in my head and garners quite a bit of excitement for what is to come.
  • Struggle: getting stuck in the planning stages.

Noni and I spent a lot of time having aimless back-and-forth conversations that were leading us nowhere. After months and months of planning I felt that we were becoming increasingly detached from what we had initially set out to do–work with kids. This is why I think it’s especially important to constantly question one’s intentions and emotional state throughout developing a project. If it doesn’t feel right, there’s probably something wrong.

Unrelated to anything in the actual curriculum or plans we have in place for our program, I’m most excited to dance, be silly and have fun with a group of students. I have come to realize that the best moments in the classroom are often those of celebrating the hard work that students and teachers alike have achieved.

Next we visit an inseparable pair, Brian Kaufman and Michael Reichman, whose project Musical Diplomacy has grown from a small concert series into a genuine proposal for a full-on program that addresses social issues through musical context. In addition to expanding and redefining their program, they have also renamed it The Sounding Board. We asked Brian and Michael a few questions on the developments and future plans for their project:

We’ve created a bunch of new programs (for Fall 2011/Spring 2012), developed a website  (soon to be released!), drafted a strategic plan and mobilized a creative team to help us move forward. We’re in the process of getting legal advice to help us become a 501c3 non-profit organization.

Though the name Musical Diplomacy served us well, we decided it didn’t completely fit our program’s vision. It’s a great name for an academic program in a university. However, we plan to expand our audience to include the broader community that enjoys music, social issues or is just looking for something fun on a Friday night. We feel the name The Sounding Board is more accessible to a broader audience. We’re excited about the road ahead!

We then asked Brian and Michael to individually share where they were post-graduation, and how it feels to now be a part of the “real world” as artists:

Michael: I’m currently Co-Director of Prism & Program Manager at the New Center for Arts and Culture. I artistically oversee and create productions that explore universal themes from a Jewish perspective. It’s very exciting because I get to work with a very talented staff and utilize all aspects of my education (music, writing, entrepreneurship, marketing). I feel very fortunate to make a living producing unique events that have a significant impact on our community.Brian: I feel so lucky to be working as a Resident Artist at El Sistema Boston, a Venezuela inspired program that uses music as a vehicle for social change. There, I conduct the wind ensemble, teach a music literacy class and serve as the videographer. Since the kids have 3 hours of music 5 days a week, it’s so cool to see how quickly they’re progressing. I’m having a blast!

Last, but certainly not least, we wanted to catch up with Noah Kelly, who received an Honorable Mention for his efforts to provide concerts for the residents at the Sophia Snow House retirement community. Noah, now a fifth grade student at Jackson Middle School in Newton, is a part of the community program Project STEP: a string training program for African-American and Latino children who demonstrate exceptional musical talent and interests.

Now, 5 months after receiving the award, Noah’s musical successes are far from over! On July 22nd, Noah performed a recital at Newton’s Golda Meir House for an audience of 75 people – a performance that came about thanks to the recognition of Noah’s accomplishment in the Boston Globe by staff writer Cindy Cantrell. Shirley Goldsmith, a Golda Meir resident highly inspired by the Globe article, contacted Noah and helped to coordinate the July performance at the retirement center. Following the performance, Shirley wrote the following to Cindy Cantrell:

Hi Ms. Cantrell. How can I thank you? Let me count the ways…just wanted to let you know that Noah was here at Golda Meir House yesterday, July 22nd, and he was sensational! He had an audience of 75 people who have not stopped talking about him all day today.

Noah was also named a 2010 Seaman Scholar with Project STEP – a scholarship offered to one to three outstanding students in Project STEP’s Training Division (Grades 1 to 7) to honor the memory of the late George Seaman. We are so excited to see what lies in store for our youngest arts leader!

We are so proud of our 2010 Margaret Stewart Lindsay Arts Leadership Award recipients for all that they have accomplished. Stay tuned for more updates as we continue to follow these inspiring young arts leaders!

Updates from Alum Brian Heveron-Smith

6 years have passed since Brian Heveron-Smith was on our Show #097 in Iowa City, where he performed the third movement of Concertino for Marimba by Paul Creston. In that time he’s graduated school, played drums on a Caribbean cruise ship, toured the east coast with jazz pianist Solomon Douglas, explored Africa, and more (if you can believe it). Here’s his complete account:

I went to the Eastman School of Music, and graduated in 2008.  I majored in percussion performance and was awarded the performer’s certificate.  After I graduated I spent a year in Rochester, doing as much performing and teaching as I possibly could, while preparing for and taking grad school auditions.  I started getting the opportunity to travel more during this time, one highlight being a Canadian tour with Solomon Douglas, a jazz pianist/swing band leader.

When springtime rolled around I received a few good offers from grad schools to continue school and earn my masters in percussion performance, but the travel bug had already bit me; I decided to take a job playing drums on a cruise ship in the caribbean for 4 months.  Once this ended I came back to Rochester for about two months, and filled my schedule up with performing gigs and recording sessions.

Last November/December, Solomon’s group did a month long east coast tour, going all the way down to Tampa, Florida, and making our way up to Montreal.  Then, this past January, I did probably the craziest thing I will ever do:  I took a 3 and a half month long trip to West Africa all alone, to travel and study drumming traditions of various cultures.  I started out in Senegal, made my way through Mali, Burkina Faso, and finally ended up in Ghana.

I came back home, caught my breath for a couple weeks, then went back on tour with Solomon’s group, and then did the same thing with two indie-rock bands (the Capitalist Youth and Gunsling Birds) immediately after that.  I filled up most of my summer schedule with teaching gigs, and now I am residing in Boston, mostly performing with my three bands.  The Capitalist Youth recently had a song featured on another NPR show, (All Songs Considered), and we’re starting to book a lot more shows because of this publicity. You can listen to our new album here.

Thanks a lot for giving me such a great opportunity!  I owe a lot to From The Top!

Can you say wow!? We look forward to seeing where Brian’s music will take him in the future, and wish him all the best.


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