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!

Saxophonist Relives American Idol Audition

On this week’s show, 17-year-old saxophone player Justin Moser relived his experience auditioning for American Idol with our host Christopher O’Riley. Nerves may have gotten the best of him at his audition, but he certainly nailed his From the Top performance and this singing demo! Check it out.

Alum Sage Po to Appear in PBS Documentary

From the Top alum and harpist Sage Po will appear in an upcoming PBS documentary called “My Musical Life.” This film is about the lives of Sage and four of her fellow young musicians who are part of the Music in the Mountains (MIM) Young Composers Program in Nevada County, California.

Sage on From the Top in El Paso, TX

The MIM Young Composers program was started in 2002 with funding from a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and is available for 5th graders – college students.  The program consists of Saturday classes and private lessons throughout the school year with teachers Mark Vance and Jerry Grant.  Students present a mid-year recital of vocal works, and the program culminates with the Young Composers Concert.

“My Musical Life” follows the progress of Sage and five other students in the classroom and in their homes, as they work on their musical compositions for one season – October through June.  It illustrates how the MIM Young Composers Program has inspired these students and what they have learned. The film shows clips not only from within the classroom, but also outside, where you can see the students’ dedication and drive to become to best musicians possible. You also see how a passion for music can be supported by family, mentors, and programs like Music in the Mountains.

The film airs on KVIE (the Sacramento PBS station) tonight, Wednesday, November 3, at 7:00 p.m.  It will run again on Friday at 4:00 p.m. and Sunday at 6:00 p.m., and will be available to PBS stations across the country.

“My Musical Life” was produced by Mike Bloebuam, a board member of MIM. He has earned five Emmy awards for his documentary film work and served as dean of communications at Pasadena City College for 20 years before retiring to Nevada County.

Congrats to Sage for being featured in this documentary!

Get on the Map – Celebrating the Power of Music

We believe that Music is Powerful Stuff and that young people can make an important contribution to the world by sharing who they are and what they love to do. This year we’ve launched a Campaign for Arts Leadership – a national call for compelling stories that will inspire musicians, young and old, across the globe to creatively engage with their own communities.

You’ve already heard about part of this campaign – our Center for Arts Leadership – but today we’re unveiling a second, virtual element.

Over the past decade our radio show has visited 103 cities, where we have met amazing people who are keeping music alive and thriving in their hometowns. We thought it was high time to put these experiences on a map!


This new section of our website features an interactive map of America and casts a spotlight on those across the country who are donating their talents and time to help others experience the power of music. We’ve added our alumni Arts Leadership projects, and now it’s your turn.

We are asking you to help us honor the musical mavens in your hometown – whether they are students, music teachers, seasoned performers, or people just trying to make a difference through music. Tell us their stories and get them on our map! Visit fromthetop.org/powerfulstuff to learn more.

Show 220: Listening Guide

John Ringor and Marcelina Suchocka perform Octabones

This week’s show (Show 220) was taped at the Adler Theatre in Davenport, Iowa on Tuesday October 12, 2010. We asked our performers to tell us about the music they performed on the show:

Justin Moser, 17, alto saxophone
Rondo  from Lamento et Rondo
By: Pierre Sancan

My favorite part of this piece is the cadenza at the end. In the last run of notes, I give it my all by going as fast as my fingers will allow and putting as much air in horn that I can. Since there are no slow melody in this selection where I can create long and beautiful tones with a lot of vibrate, I find it important to put expression and emotion into the fast lines of notes in the phrases. The hardest part of this piece is a reoccurring measures in which I have to go up an incomplete chromatic scale while always returning to a single note in between each interval.

John Ringer, 16, Marimba
Octabones
By: Adi Morag

Whenever I play piece I always imagine an intense, fiery duel between two people. I imagine them exchanging blows and running around fighting to the death. Then at one point in the piece, I picture skeletons coming out of the ground (the part where we are hitting the marimba with the shafts of our wallets) and there’s a really creepy atmosphere around.

Octabones is probably one the hardest pieces I’ve ever played. The preparation and practice required for this piece allowed me to really grow and develop as a musician. Perhaps the hardest things about this piece are the fast licks, the large intervals, and the extreme jumps. However, despite the difficulties, when we do nail the piece, its so rewarding and I have such a feeling of accomplishment.

Marcelina Suchocka, 17, marimba
Octabones
By: Adi Morag

The entire feel of the piece is very flowing, beautiful, and “groovy”. Whenever I play it, I feel one with the marimba and I feel like we are dancing together. I envision my home, Poland, because it is so green and there’s almost no place with no green. I miss my home so much and when I found and heard this piece it brought tears to my eyes because it reminded me so much of the forests and Spring of Poland.

This piece will be one of the few pieces that describes my love for nature and my love of Poland. I don’t consider any performance of it to be nervous or robotic because I don’t feel at all scared to play it. It reminds me of home which makes me feel so comfortable event though learning it was challenging especially trying to make it sound like something that can be sung and not “hard”.

Sherry Tang, 12 piano
Andante & Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 14
By Felix Mendelssohn

The Rondo Capriccioso is a very speed piece – it’s a race horse of a piece, very exciting. You have to keep your wrists relaxed, and keep the drama up to this intense level and of course keep your mind on all these notes racing away under your fingers…It was like being on a Real wild horse with me getting bruised and shaken up and scratched all over— my mother said it sounded so exciting. I felt like I was going to fall off and break my neck. There definitely was a feeling of great adventure.

There are grand emotions in this piece, but also a kind of humor because it’s all so exaggerated and melodramatic. It’s not just about a boy and girl secretly meeting but Mendelssohn adds all these shadows and the moonlight, and a storm brewing, an angry father (with a sword), and a wild horse dashing through the countryside. Mendelssohn is telling us art can be more intense than real like and that’s why it’s so special. So, with this piece the sighs have to be overdone– not painful, not reality, not like Chopin–but exaggerated, kind of like the idea behind the music in Dudley Do-Right.

Michael Ferri, 15, violin
Seconda parte ‘friss’: Allegretto moderato from Rhapsody No. 1
By Béla Bartók

Folk music being a great influence in Bartók’s composing style, this piece is filled with rustic popular melodies from Romania and Hungary. For me, it invokes images of gypsies playing their instruments and dancing around a bonfire, improvising; Bartók even writes in mistakes that he thought they would make. I love this piece because of the atmosphere that Bartók captures with the spiky rhythms and beautiful harmonies. I enjoyed playing this piece because of the technical challenges it provides me, and because of how much I can do with the piece musically. The melodramatic character of the piece easily allows me to be able to express my ideas of what feelings Bartok was trying to convey as well as have a lot of fun while playing.

Zachary Spontak, 18, violin
III. Allegro-Andate molto- Allegro from String Quartet No.2 in F major, Op.92
By Sergei Prokofiev

This is a piece that definitely conjures up a story in my mind with vivid pictures of dying angels and weeping. Especially in the middle performance included my music blowing its off sand. I knew we had internalized it at that point. If we get the right feeling at the opening, the rest follows.(Fingers crossed)

Leah Ferguson, 17, viola
III. Allegro-Andate molto- Allegro from String Quartet No.2 in F major, Op.92
By Sergei Prokofiev

When I play this piece I think about capturing specific characters, and relating them to my group mates. My group created a story line for this piece that we think of whenever we play it. This piece has a lot of different characters, and really makes up a story. To tell the story, my group mates and I really have to live in the moment when we play the piece. The hardest thing about this piece is that ensemble has to be perfectly timed and everyone really has to move as a unit.

Sophia Cho, 18, viola
III. Allegro-Andate molto- Allegro from String Quartet No.2 in F major, Op.92
By Sergei Prokofiev

This piece is composed of so many different elements. It’s mysterious, humorous, creepy, beautiful, and fun. We even made up a story for the movement about a beautiful girl at a party that may get murdered, all taking place during the 1700’s. The EPIC MIDDLE PART IS MY FAVORITE. I’ve never spent so much time tuning sections with the quartet as I had with this piece. There was so much tedious work that was required for this- more than others. To add to the challenge this piece is so spontaneous! The mood and colors change all the time. Working on smooth, natural, musical changes was difficult but rewarding when we finally got it.

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