Sandra Bailey Inspires Students to Pursue their Dreams

“(This event) made me realize what kids can accomplish when given the necessary support from role models in their community. I feel honored to have had the opportunity to enrich the lives of…youth in my own community.”

Sandra Bailey with Atlanta Preparatory Academy students

Bassoonist Sandra Bailey understands the value of outlining goals to help achieve one’s dreams. Wanting to share this message with younger students in her hometown, she visited a 6th and 7th grade music class at the Atlanta Preparatory Academy, where her younger sister is a student.

After challenging the students to write down their goals, Sandra talked about the steps she took to make her own dreams become a reality, from getting her first bassoon, to appearing on From the Top and being selected as a Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist (she was on Show #232 and will be part of our upcoming gala!).

Sandra dazzled the students with a range of musical selections, from Bolero to the SpongeBob theme, and encouraged them to explore their own musical potential. She created a special pamphlet with musical opportunities in Atlanta for the students to take home and share with their parents.

Continue reading

Show 249: Listening Guide

From the Top’s broadcast for Show 249 was taped in was taped in The Palladium at The Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, IN on Wednesday, March 21, 2012. We asked our performers to tell us about the music they performed on the show:

Nathan Meltzer, violin, 11
Hejre Kati, Scènes de la csárda, No. 4, Op. 32     
By: Jenö Hubay

This is a Hungarian gypsy piece, and I really like gypsy music. Maybe it is because I grew up in Vienna across from a tavern, where every night I heard a violin and an accordion playing this kind of music. I try to play the piece like I imagine it would be played in that tavern. It has a really juicy opening. At a master class, Vadim Gluzman told me to not rush any note. He suggested I imagine a one-hundred-year-old man thinking about the love of his life, trying to hold onto every moment of his time with her. Since I’ve never really felt like that yet, I had better luck picturing a band of gypsies reflecting back on a hard day. In the next part, where there are light and soft double stops, I picture bandits sneaking into the gypsy camp. Then the theme returns; it is quieter and slower, because the gypsies are exhausted after the chase. Finally the music turns light and happy again. The bandits are gone,  and it’s time to dance!

As with Zigeunerweisen (by Pablo de Sarasate) and other gypsy pieces I’ve played, I like having the freedom to play around with the interpretation. I also like how I’m able to slack off on some proper shifting techniques and have some very romantic shifts and slides. What I kind of like and kind of don’t like about the piece is that every section is really unique and has its own challenge (style, character, technique). I have to practice every part of it with a very different focus. In the opening, there is a lot of repetition, and the challenge is to make each repetition a little different so it stays interesting. In the fast, dancing part of the piece, I have to work to get the bow articulation right. But it is a really a fun piece to learn and play.

Post Show Reflections: I liked everything, from the pizza party to the outreach programs. I really enjoyed myself! I especially liked hanging out backstage during the show. I also really liked all the people I met. They were not only great musicians but great people. Before I went on stage, I was very nervous.  But after Tim and everybody did their comedy acts, I felt better.  While I was playing, I felt like I could just go for it because we had already recorded it earlier that day. During the interview, the audience was very encouraging, so I felt like I belonged up there.

I believe that music has the power to make people cry/ laugh/etc. It is a way to communicate what you can’t say.

Tyler Rhodes, guitar, 18
Spanish Dance No.5, “Andaluza”
By: Enrique Granados

To me, this piece of music is very deep. I actually do imagine stories and images when I play. For this piece, I love picturing a middle-aged man complaining about his pathetic love life.

What I like about Spanish Dance No. 5 is that it’s very listener friendly. The musical phrases aren’t too difficult to express, so I can just relax a bit and enjoy it.

Post Show Reflections: My favorite memory was hanging out backstage during the show; a lot of interesting things went down. People never got tired of my sock-hands and we formed Captain Planet with our metals! Well, the concert was a harder performance than I’m used to since I was being recorded. But it felt great to play in such a beautiful space and try to let go!

Music has the power to emotionally connect to others on a whole other level. It impacts people in great and inspiring ways.

Continue reading

Reaching Out in Carmel, IN


Towards the end of March, we taped a show at The Palladium – a beautiful, acoustically-ideal concert hall that’s part of the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, Indiana. We had taped a show at the Palladium just last year and the excitement behind our return allowed us to make a number of connections with the community. Two weeks before we even arrived, local bassoonist Tom English (Show #233) was busy promoting our return to Carmel. He traveled to the Prime Life Enrichment Center, where he performed several solo works and spoke about his experience on our show last year.

On the day of the show, a group of sound engineering students from Crowne Point High School drove all the way to Carmel (nearly two hours) to attend our dress rehearsal and get a behind-the-scenes look at a live recording session. After the rehearsal, they met with our sound engineer, Berred Ouellette, who explained the process of taking the show from live concert to radio broadcast. Berred also treated the students to a backstage tour to see and experience our recording equipment.

Continue reading

Class of 2011 Arts Leaders Anna & Nash: Making Connections!

Today we are spotlighting the work of 2 of our 2011 Arts Leaders: Anna & Nash, who shadowed the Boston Public Quartet and aided in their after-school chamber music program called musiConnects, whose mission is to create social change through chamber music.

The two bright young leaders had the opportunity to observe and take part in every aspect of running a non-profit organization including marketing, fundraising, teaching and much more. They even planned and performed their own benefit concert to support musiConnects, raising over $700.

Anna & Nash were just two of the students who took their music beyond the concert hall in 2011, and YOU can be a part of the next group of movers and shakers who use the arts to make a difference. For more information on the Year-Long Arts Leadership Program, click here, or contact Rosena Cornet, Education Program Coordinator, at or call 617-437-0707 x123.

Making Connections in Ogden, Utah

We had an exciting array of outreach events around our radio taping earlier last month in Ogden, Utah! Thanks to our presenter Weber State University (WSU), our staff and performers had the chance to make some inspiring connections with students, ranging from elementary school to college, in the Ogden community!

Within hours of arriving in Ogden, our education team and the Meshugene Quartet from Midwest Young Artists in the Chicago-area kicked things off by visiting with a group of students, grades 3 through 5, involved in WSU’s Strings Project: an after-school orchestra program that is part of a national initiative by the American String Teachers Association. The quartet gave a stunning performance of diverse repertoire, including Haydn, Shostakovich, and Grieg. Their coach Allan Dennis talked about the important musical aspects, giving the audience a “listening guide” for each piece. The group also shared some of their favorite ways to practice together as a group – check out the video below!

At the end of the program, the audience had some great questions, ranging from “How many hours a day do you practice?” to “What’s your favorite type of pie?” Many of the students stayed afterwards to meet with the performers one-on-one.

The next day just before From the Top’s dress rehearsal, our producer Tim Banker met with WSU students who manage the school’s radio station, KWCR 88.1, to explore what makes good radio. Providing handouts with sample stories and characters, Tim challenged the students to determine which would make the most compelling story within a From the Top program. He talked about how our show strives to bring to life these young performers’ memories and experiences. Check out the video below to hear some of what he shared:

The day after the taping, we traveled with four of our performers to Mt. Ogden Junior High School, where we met with a class of music students in grades 6 through 8. Gathered on the school auditorium’s stage, these kids got a “sneak peek”  of the show, with each performer playing a piece that had been featured the night before. Our performers also shared a range of personal insights, from struggles with finding the motivation to practice to what had first inspired them to pursue classical music.

Stay tuned for more exciting stories about our community outreach efforts on the road!

On the Road with Joanne Robinson: Show 250 New York City

Curtain call at Carnegie's Zankel Hall
photo by Julien Jourdes

We taped a show last week in the heart of the Big Apple at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall for a an audience packed with music teachers from all over the US. The teachers were in town for the Music Teacher’s National Association convention, and as you might expect, they made for a wonderfully enthusiastic audience!

Opening the show was 17-year-old violinist Madi Vest who played Franz Waxman’s “Carmen Fantasie.” She’s a serious violinist, wholeheartedly intent on pursuing a career in music, and her expressive style of playing really engaged the crowd.

Following Madi was a very young guitarist, 13-year-old Ashwin Krishna, who beautifully played “Sunburst” by Andrew York and talked with Christopher O’Riley about how he manages to balance school, music, Boy Scouts, and sports.

Next up was a phenomenal piano quartet from New York City who call themselves the Lapis Quartet. They passionately played the finale from Brahms’ Piano Quartet No. 1 and talked about their history of having heated arguments in Chinese (the problem is, only three of the four quartet members speak Chinese)!

18-year-old Karen Baumgartner was up next playing a mesmerizing piece for solo flute called “Image” by Eugene Bozza. It’s always interesting to hear a musician play solo without accompaniment and Karen didn’t disappoint. She also was in for a surprise after the played when her twin sister, who could not be in the live audience that day, called in to the show to congratulate her.

For the grand finale, 18-year-old pianist Quinn Gomez took the stage to play a dynamic piece called “Butterflies and Bobcats” written by contemporary Canadian composer David McIntyre.

And now, for you viewing pleasure, enjoy this sneak peek of all of the performances taken the night before at our music rehearsal – and make sure to tune in when the show airs the week of April 30!


From the Top Alumni Take Beijing by Storm!

Friday, April 6th, began the 2012 Menuhin International Violin Competition, taking place in Beijing. Among the 42 competitors, From the Top was represented by 11 alumni, including:

Among Senior competitors (under 22):

1. Hannah Cho (Show 209/Waimea)
2. Piotr Filochowski (Show 149/Mercersburg)
3. Eric Gratz (Show 177/New Albany & Show 180/Berkeley)
4. Zenas Hsu (Show 161/San Francisco)*
5. Alexi Kenney (Show 200/Wolfeboro)*
6. Eunice Kim (Show 94/Boston)*
7. Anna Lee (Shows 152, 174, 204 & TV)*
8. Kenneth Renshaw (Shows 186, 211 & 228)*

*These competitors have gone on to be in the semi-final round, taking place on Wednesday!

Among Junior competitors (under 16):

1. Alina Kobialka (Show 252/Chattanooga)
2. Jieming Tang (Show 251/Potsdam)
3. Jacqueline Tso (Show 244/Kalamazoo)

Good Luck to all!

Want to see the competition? Click here to view the livestream of the competition. Performances begin at 10:00am Beijing Time!

UPDATE, 4/11/2012: As of Wednesday, from a record number of 238 hopeful entrants to the Menuhin International Violin Competition, 3 out of the 4 finalists are From the Top alumni. Congratulations to Alexi KenneyJi Eun Anna Lee, and Kenneth Arthur Renshaw (Click on the name to see their performance video from the competition!). Also, we wish good luck to Alina Kobialka who’ll be competing on Friday in the Junior Finals! Click here to see more competitor videos!

UPDATE, 4/17/2012: The results are in! In the senior competition, From the Top Alumni received First, Second, and Third place! Congratulations to all of the competitors!
1st place: Kenneth Renshaw
2nd Place: Anna Lee
3rd Place: Alexi Kenney
4th Place: Siyan Guo

Show 248: Listening Guide

This week’s From the Top’s broadcast (Show 248) was taped at Weber State University’s Austad Auditorium in Ogden, Utah on Thursday, March 8, 2012. We asked our performers to tell us about the music they performed on the show:

Nick Tisherman, oboe, 17
I. Allegro from Sonata in F major, KV 370
By: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

I like to think very happy, joyful, bubbly thoughts when I play this piece. I always keep in mind that Mozart wrote the oboe quartet as a show-off piece for a friend, so I think that it needs to be flashy as well. My favorite part is a section in which the music sounds like two voices arguing. I’ve played this for an audience of children at the Blythedale Children’s Hospital near where I live. I think the piece really lifted their spirits. When I played the Mozart for Frank Rosemein at CIM, he said my interpretation needed more “sparkle”, and should be more “effervescent.” On the flight home from Cleveland I ordered a Sprite and decided that my complimentary beverage represented the character I should shoot for.

This piece is really cool because in the third movement, the oboe rebels and goes into a 4/4 feel while the strings stay in 6/8. It creates a really cool effect. I feel that I most get across my personality when I play the oboe quartet. It is such an exciting piece, and it has so much character in it. I finally unlocked the hardest part of playing Mozart after I stopped thinking of the quartet as a super-light, bubbly showpiece, and pretended I was singing an aria instead. Once I gave the piece this mentality, all the lines and melodies fell into place and Mozart in general felt easier to play.

Post Show Reflections: I enjoyed bonding with my fellow performers and especially liked talking with audience members and hearing their reactions. The performance was completely exhilarating. The audience was warm and receptive, and playing with Chris O’Riley was amazing. I felt like a star, and I signed my first autograph!

Music connects in a way that no other medium, art form, or any sort of rhetorical device can. It speaks to everyone. It can evoke emotion in anyone. We can use music to touch life and reach out to make a change that we could not make without music.

Midnight Duo 
III. Finale (Allegro vivacissimo) from Violin Concerto in D major, Op.35
By: Peter Illyich Tchaikovsky 

Aubree Oliverson, violin, 13

The 3rd movement is my favorite. It starts off with a BANG and it makes me smile! After the beginning fast part, it slows down a little and the music reminds me of Russian men dancing. My favorite part of the movement is the ending because it’s super exciting! =)

I know that Tchaikovsky went through some really difficult times in his life and I think that helped him put a whole lot of meaning into this beautiful concerto. The deep meaning is one thing that sets it apart from other violin works – this piece gets me every time I hear it.

Post Show Reflections: My favorite memory was the pizza party! Because there were really good cookies! The performance was soooo fun! I wanted to do it again! I wasn’t nervous at all.

I believe music can change people for the better. Music can change the way people think about the world. Continue reading

Check Out a Video of Music Producer Tom Vignieri’s “Haec Dies”!

For many around the world Easter is an important date on the religious calendar. And for music lovers it’s an opportunity to experience some of the most beautiful music ever written. Perhaps above all, the St. John and St. Matthew Passions of Johann Sebastian Bach. Recently our music producer, Tom Vignieri, added a work of his own to the canon. He set the Easter text “Haec dies” or “This is the day” (Psalm 118:24) for chorus, organ & trumpet to help inaugurate a new era for the Boston based Metropolitan Chorale of Brookline. And together with From the Top friend and videographer Eleanor Dowling they produced the following music video. Enjoy, and a very happy Easter and Passover season from all of us at From the Top.

Alum Bihn Park to Perform with the Philadelphia Orchestra

Cellist Bihn Park recently informed us that on April 14 he’ll be performing with the Philadelphia Orchestra in a concert  featuring conductor Cristian Macelaru and composer Nathaniel Stookey. The concert includes pieces by Dvorák and Stookey’s narration of his own work, The Composer is Dead.

Bihn (far left) performing on Show #246 as part of the Temple University Music Preparatory Honors String Quartet. Photo credit: Alisa Garin Photography

You can find out more about the concert and buy tickets here–the performance begins at 11:30 a.m. in Verizon Hall. We hope anyone around the Philadelphia area can attend and support Bihn, who just had his second performance on From the Top’s  Show #246 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and originally appeared on From the Top Show #198 in Omaha, Nebraska!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 62 other followers

%d bloggers like this: