Carson Marshall Aims to Inspire

Being an arts leader to me means inspiring that “spark” in others so they can realize what they are capable of. It’s about empowering people to go after something they normally wouldn’t, or showing them a piece of their full potential and how easy it is to accomplish their goals. – Carson Marshall

When 17 year-old violinist and Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Carson Marshall appeared on From the Top (Show 245, Boston, Massachusetts), he gave a heartfelt account of his own difficulties with sight-reading music due to a learning disability. He never thought that his words and actions would have such a powerful impact, and quickly learned that sharing one’s experiences can empower others to realize their own potential.

An unexpected inspiration came through Classical South Florida’s Reach Out contest. Applicants to the contest were asked to write a letter to a recent From the Top performer, sharing what they loved about the performance and including three questions for that performer. Violinist Josiah Blanchette (also 17) was inspired by Carson’s story. He shared a similar struggle with sight-reading, and was encouraged to hear that there are other musicians out there like him. Moved by Josiah’s honesty and passion for music, Carson wrote the following letter in response:

A month later, Carson visited a class of middle school strings students from his hometown of Amherst, MA to help them realize their own potential. Seeing their engagement inspired Carson to talk more about his own struggles, and how determination and hard work helped him get to where he is today and envision a future in music. During the presentation, Carson focused on tone quality, demonstrating factors that can effect tone, such as bow speed and pressure, and how to apply these to actual music. He shares more on his goals for and learning from the experience below:

[I wanted] to teach younger children the basics and fundamentals of their instruments, and hopefully either inspire them to continue practicing or keep them from quitting. I also hoped to show these kids that even though it was hard for me to get to where I am today, I did have some fun along the way, and all they have to do is stick with it. My goal was to show these kids that they can be as good as they want to be, and there is nothing holding them back. I wanted to show them they can become great players with work, and that it’s possible (and quite simple) for them to make a good sound on their instrument. Overall, I felt like the kids responded well to the presentation, and I got a lot of great feedback. I think now that these kids know what is possible with their instruments, they will continue to seek that sound and become better players because for it.

About to start as a freshman at Rice University, Carson hopes to continue sharing his story to inspire and empower others. We can’t wait to see what he does next!

On the Road with Joanne Robinson: Show 256, Grapevine, TX

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
General Martin Dempsey meeting our performers

A few weeks ago we were in Grapevine, Texas, where we taped an especially unique episode of the radio show featuring young musicians who’ve grown up in military families. Our show was part of the Military Child Education Coalition’s annual seminar, and our audience was full of the people who teach and support military kids.

Among the performers featured was a fantastic young clarinetist whose dream of playing in a military band was realized when he joined a quintet from the United States Army Band to perform a military march. The quintet featured a flutist who was herself a former From the Topper. We also met a 17-year-old harpist who played Gabriel Pierne, a 16-year-old pianist who introduced us to his large military family, and an 18-year-old violist who turned the tables on the violinists of the world by playing one of the flashiest pieces in their repertory – Kreisler’s Praeludium and Allegro.

After the show I met a family of From the Top fans from the island of Borneo (on the South China Sea). It was incredibly cool to learn that they listened to our podcast halfway across the world!

My favorite moment of all had to be at our dress rehearsal when we had the honor of meeting the highest-ranking military officer in the United States (i.e. the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and principal military adviser to the President) General Martin Dempsey, who sat in on our rehearsal. But not only did he watch it, General Dempsey, who is known among his colleagues for his love of singing, treated us to his rendition of “My Kind of Town” – and believe me when I tell you that the General has some serious stage presence! Of course I made sure we videotaped it for you, and you can check out a snippet at the end of this week’s Sneak Peek video. When the show airs though (the week of October 1) look out, because we’ll likely post the whole thing!

Arianna Korting Shows Kids the Cool Side of Classical Music through Animato Project

I learned that it is extremely effective to have kids teach other kids. I think they were able to really connect with me in a way that you can’t connect with an adult teacher.

Pianist Arianna Korting (Show 145, Boston, Massachusetts; Show 241, Washington, DC) is passionate about showing younger kids how enjoyable and fun classical music can be. As a sophomore in high school, she founded the Animato Project – an interactive series of programs for 4th graders from the West Geauga school district. She specifically chose to work with this grade from the district given their annual field trip to see one of the Cleveland Orchestra concerts. Arianna saw this as a wonderful opportunity to further their exposure to the genre in a peer-to-peer setting. She chose to work with two elementary schools: Lindsey Elementary in Chester, Ohio and Westwood Elementary in Russell, Ohio. Each 45-minute program combined performance with a variety of activities, from expressing musical reactions through drawing to listing as many orchestral instruments and composers as possible.  She worked with the administration at West Geauga High School (her high school) to guarantee the program’s continuation as she prepares to leave for college in the fall.

”[My goal was] to promote classical music to a young audience. Animato means animated, lively. This project is all about showing that classical music can be as cool as pop, country, or rap music!”

We asked Arianna to share more about her experiences with the Animato Project…

FTT: What were some memorable moments from The Animato Project?     

Arianna: It was great just watching the kids’ faces as I was playing etudes and scales on the piano – they loved it when I was able to show how fast one can play. When I asked them to name off some classical composers, a few mentioned Michael Jackson! One girl came up to me after a visit and told me she would go home and play on the piano right away! Another girl really appreciated the project, and I later heard that she developed a great interest in this genre of music. All I would like this project to do is touch the heart of at least one student, and show him or her a new perspective on music. Continue reading

Alexia DelGiudice Shares Music’s Power of Expression to Students with Learning Disabilities

I learned that I can make an impact on kids’ lives regarding the arts, and realized how passionate I am about helping others. I would definitely do this again.

Having lived with a nonverbal learning disorder since age 4, now 17 year-old violist Alexia DelGiudice, (Show 245) a From the Top Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist) fully understands the struggles of those with learning disabilities. She has found music to be a powerful tool for expressing herself and making connections. Wanting to share this inspiration with others, Alexia visited with students involved in the Oliver Ames High School “Best Buddies” chapter – part of the nonprofit organization dedicated to support students with intellectual and developmental disabilities worldwide. She developed a three-part interactive program, tying together musical demonstrations with artistic expression.

She started with a brief concert in the school’s auditorium, asking the students to imagine a story for each piece she performed. Alexia then welcomed several of the students to join her onstage and try out a violin she had brought. They all traveled to the Art Room next, where Alexia asked everyone to make a drawing that represented their favorite piece from her performance. She found the overall experience to be a powerful way for connecting with kids who normally struggle to express themselves. She share her goals below:

I wanted these kids with disabilities to know that they are capable of doing whatever they want in life. The challenge does not need to prevent their dreams and talents from coming forward. My goal was to open up their minds and to let them express their emotions through music and art.

We asked Alexia to share more about her experience with the Best Buddies program…

FTT: Tell us more on what inspired you to connect with these students…

Alexia: Due to the fact that I have a nonverbal learning disability, I feel I can share and connect with other students who are facing the same challenges. Music and viola have allowed me to express myself and see the world around me as an open book, not as a world where my disability rules my life.

Passion is what drives me and helps me to achieve any goal I set for myself. My consistent improvement and abilities are not blocked by the challenges I feel at school. I am competing only with myself as a violist when I practice. The pressure I face at school does not exist.

FTT: What were some memorable moments?

Alexia: When I was letting the kids try a violin, this one kid named Andrew was so excited about it that he ran up onto the stage and tried to grab the violin! Even though he was being a little rough, I knew how to calm him down. He loved the sound and didn’t want to stop playing it. The second person to try the violin was a tiny girl named Erin. When she stepped onto the stage, she started stretching like she was about to run a race. It was so cute! She had so much fun trying the violin that whenever she made a bad sound, she crinkled her nose. It is moments like these that I will never forget!

Continue reading

Jisoo Kim is “Crossing Strings” in the Community through Peer Mentorship

Here at Crossing Strings, I am teacher, friend, and mentor.

After having the chance to work with younger kids at a summer music festival, violinist and Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Jisoo Kim (Show 240, Boston, Massachusetts) was inspired to start a lesson program in her own neighborhood. She created Crossing Strings: a program for aspiring young violinists that meets once a week at the Ridgefield Public Library. With eight students currently involved, Jisoo has discovered a passion for teaching and mentoring kids in music. She’ll be heading to college this fall, but wants to continue her work wherever school and music may take her. Check out the following video to see the Crossing Strings students in action:

We asked Jisoo to share more with us about Crossing Strings…

FTT: What inspired you to create this program?

Jisoo: I decided to start my very own violin program because of a particular experience I had during the previous summer. I had worked as a mentor to the younger students that played string instruments (violin, viola, and cello) at a local summer music camp for community service hours.

It was really my first time in the position of a “teacher.” I had always been the student, listening and following my own teacher’s directions. Because the role had switched for me, it turned out to be quite intriguing. I was eager to develop my own program to gain more insight into the rewarding perspectives of being a teacher.

Continue reading

Dong Won Lee Helps to Keep his School’s Music Program Strong and Alive

“I think that performing and sharing is crucial for young people like us. This concert definitely showed the parents and the greater Interlake community that its musical scene is full of life.” Dong Won (pictured above at his From the Top appearance in Washington D.C – Show 241)

After receiving notice that the Interlake High School music department was in need of financial support, pianist and Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Dong Won Lee (Show 241, Washington, DC) decided to take action. The program’s band director David Kim would be taking a leave of absence while his wife underwent critical surgery, and sent an appeal to all students for help with raising funds to hire temporary music clinicians. Dong Won was so inspired by Mr. Kim’s dedication to the band that he decided to organize a benefit concert.

Having never organized a concert by himself, Dong Won reached out to the school’s orchestra director: Dr. Shira Katsman (pictured below with Dong Won). She helped him secure a venue, organize a music program, and contact the various performers from the school. The music department rallied to support the cause, with nearly 40 musicians joining Dong Won for the event! The program showcased a variety of instruments and genres, from saxophone ensemble to string quartet. Held at the Interlake Performing Arts Center, they raised $2,000 for the music program! All proceeds went towards the Interlake Music Parents Association’s Clinician Fund (created by Dr. Kim). Dong Won shares why he chose to organize this event:

“I wanted to help the music students at my school, and had always wanted to be a part of the music program (the piano doesn’t really belong to any group), so the opportunity to stage this concert came to my mind.” Continue reading


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