Classical Music: Random Acts in the Streets and in the Stores!

A new trend is emerging in performance around the world – random acts of classical music. Maybe you’ve heard of flash mobs, where hundreds of people suddenly appear in a public place to perform a random and pointless act for a few brief minutes, and then dissipate. This idea is catching on in the musical world, as witnessed by mini “flash concerts” in Philadelphia, Northern England, and Italy, among others.

NPR notes, “Over the past year, an increasing number of classical musicians have been launching into unannounced performances in marketplaces and transit hubs — and videos of these impromptu concerts have reached a wide audience on the internet.”

Here’s the YouTube video of the opera group in the Reading Terminal Market:

What’s the point of this? Musicians may find enjoyment in surprising people in public places, but it probably goes deeper than that. By performing in a place where people don’t expect it – like the Philadelphia market – they are bringing their music to people who normally wouldn’t hear it. And maybe by doing that, they can spark an interest that some listeners may pursue later. Most of the time these “flash concerts” don’t involve any profit – music for the sake of music!

You can read the full NPR article here, which has videos of the flash performances in England and Italy.

Alumni Stephen Waarts and Kenneth Renshaw Snag First Prize in the International LOUIS SPOHR Competition

Stephen on From the Top

From the Top alum and violinist Stephen Waarts, who appeared on Show 207 in Stanford, California, recently won one of the two first place prizes in Division 1 of the International LOUIS SPOHR Competition for Young Violinists in Weimar, Germany! Stephen also received a special award for the best interpretation of a romantic concerto, in all divisions.

Kenneth on From the Top

From the Top alum and violinist Kenneth Renshaw, who appeared on Show 186 in Lubbock, Texas and  Show 211 in Santa Barbara received first place in Division 2. Kenneth also received two special awards: the best interpretation of a violin concerto by W. A. Mozart, and the best interpretation of a Beethoven sonata.

The annual competition, which is focused on giving up-and-coming young musicians exposure to international judges, took place from October 26-November 7.  It included three divisions based on age, plus a special awards section that encompassed all divisions.

In the final round of the competition Stephen performed Mozart Concerto No. 5 with the student Chamber Orchestra of the Music Conservatory in Weimar. Then in the Winner’s Recital, he performed Saint-Saens Concerto, 1st Movement, with the professional Staatskapelle Orchestra conducted by Martin Hoff in the Weimar Hall, Weimar.

More information and a complete list of winners is available on the contest website.

Congratulations, Stephen and Kenneth!

From the Top and Carnegie Hall’s Big Break is Heating Up!

We’ve teamed up with Carnegie Hall to launch the Big Break – a YouTube contest for young musicians to win an appearance on a special broadcast of our radio show and a performance at Carnegie Hall!

With a little over a week to go until the November 18th submission deadline, we’ve got some terrific entries including a recorder player, a bassoonist, many talented pianists, and more! You can check out current submissions now on the contest page, and the public voting stage will begin around November 29th. Be sure to check back then to cast your vote for who should win a performance on a special episode of From the Top’s radio show and an appearance at a concert at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall!

Are you a young musician (or know one) aged 8-18 looking for your big break? Submit your solo performance video now.

Alums George Li and Benjamin Beilman Win First Prize at the Young Concert Artists International Auditions!

Very exciting news just in – over the weekend alums George Li (age 15, piano) and Benjamin Beilman (age 20, violin) both won first prize at the Young Concert Artists (YCA) International Auditions in New York! This is an incredible accomplishment and we are very proud of George and Benjamin.

George and host Christopher O'Riley on From the Top at Carnegie Hall

This year the YCA International Auditions started with 278 young artists from 21 countries, aged from 16 to 28. After the first round 40 artists were selected for semi-final audition from  November 2nd to 4th. Twelve artists (4 pianists) were then selected for the final audition on November 6.

Even though George is only 15, he won the first prize and 5 special prizes after the final round of performances on Saturday, November 6!

As winners, George and Benjamin will become members of Young Concert Artists, Inc., which provides management services, including the booking of concert engagements throughout the United States, publicity, promotional materials and career guidance for three or more years at no cost to the artists.  They will also be presented in recitals as part of the Young Concert Artists Series in New York; in Washington, D.C. at the Kennedy Center; and at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.

George participated in these auditions as a representative of Walnut Hill School and New England Conservatory Preparative School. He appeared on From the Top with Christopher O’Riley in Boston, Massachusetts when he was 10 years old, and  on From the Top at Carnegie Hall, Season 1 at age 11.

Benjamin appeared on From the Top in Rockport, Maine with the Bay Chamber Trio at age 13. He’s currently studying at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

Among the other 9 finalists in this competition were baritone John Brancy (From the Top Show 162 in Bethesda, Maryland and Show 204 in Granville, Ohio) and violinist Joel Link (From the Top Show 089 in Boston, Massachusetts). They were both awarded second prize.

Previous From the Top alums who have won prizes in the YCA International Auditions include Caroline Goulding, Charlie Albright, Bella Hristova, and even our host Christopher O’Riley!

Arts Leadership in Baton Rouge, LA

From Brass to Class!

This week, From the Top traveled to Baton Rouge to tape a radio show at Louisiana State University’s College of Music and Dramatic Arts. Our ten young artists brought a variety of genres and personalities to Tuesday’s show, and gave an unforgettable performance! Six of the ten joined us the following morning for the Arts Leadership Orientation to reflect on how music can produce a positive change in society. The group named themselves “From Brass to Class”, bringing together classical music with that of the Louisiana Brass Band tradition.

After sharing a number of wonderful ideas in an activity we call “Chalk Talk” (or silent communication through writing), they group established that Arts Leadership is:

  1. preserving cultural music for younger generations (of all cultural genres)
  2. cultivating the universal language of music in everyone
  3. opening minds

As a thank you to LSU for hosting the show, the performers also chose to celebrate the spirit of the LSU Fighting Tigers in their group video. Check it out!

To learn more about the show, check out On the Road with Joanne Robinson, and be sure to catch the  show on the air the week of December 13th!

Go Tigers!

On the Road with Joanne Robinson: Show 222 Baton Rouge, LA

Memorial Tower at LSU (G. Andrew Boyd / The Times-Picayune archive)

We just got home from taping a show in Baton Rouge, Louisiana at the Shaver Theatre at LSU. It was our first time in Louisiana and it was a fantastic experience!

The show was full of standout moments. It opened with a dazzling performance by 15-year-old cellist Jean Kim, a wonderfully expressive musician, who played Capriccio by Lukas Foss. Next up was 16-year-old pianist Jennifer Tu who beautifully played Debussy’s L’Isle Joyeuse. Violist Marcus Rose, 17, took the stage next, giving a sensitive performance of Suite Hebraique by Ernest Bloch. Next, 17-year-old soprano Jennifer Seidel sang “Les Filles de Cadix” by Leo Delibes and then showed off her acting chops in a very funny sketch about her childhood. Closing the show was something truly special and unique to the locale – a true blue New Orleans brass band! The Red Hot Brass Band, six members strong, closed the show with the traditional “Just a Closer Walk with Thee.”

I have to tell you about probably my favorite moment of all, which happened just as the show was ending. As all of the performers prepared to exit the stage after bowing at curtain call, the Red Hot Brass Band launched into an encore – their own jazzy, improvised version of “When the Saints Come Marching In.” The audience leapt to their feet, clapping and cheering, and the energy in the house was just incredible!

For your viewing pleasure, I happened to catch the members of the brass band jamming backstage in their dressing room before the show. If you want to get an idea just how hot the Red Hot Brass Band is, check out this impromptu jam session! Stay tuned for this show to broadcast the week of December 13th.

The Blount-Slawson Young Artists Competition!

The Montgomery Symphony Orchestra has announced the next Blount-Slawon Young Artists Competition on January 29-30, 2011 at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama. Applications must be post marked by December 10th!

The competition is open to 7th-12th graders who go to school in the US. String, wind, brass, percussion, and piano are all eligible for entry.  The full rules and regulations can be viewed here.

Aside from generous a cash prize, education award, and symphony performance, the  first prize winner of this contest will appear on one of our From the Top radio shows with host Christopher O’Riley.

Last year, From the Top’s own Music Producer Tom Vignieri was a judge, and previous winners have included From the Top alums like Anna Lee.

Please spread the word to all the young musicians you know!

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