Giving Back to the Arizona Community

DSC_0013We think music is powerful stuff and we love sharing that message with the different communities we visit on tour. While taping in Mesa, Arizona in February (Show 269), we had a number of opportunities to do just that.

It all started the day of our show with a morning trip to Archway Classical Academy in Phoenix. In two back-to-back sessions, we visited both the fourth and fifth grade classes at the Academy. Performers Adé Williams (violin), Austen Yueh (clarinet), Trey Pernell (composer), and Peter Eom (cello) were each able to share stories, talk about why they love music, and lead the students through some really fun activities. It was an inspiring way to start the day – you can check out some highlights in the video below:

Later that evening before the show, we welcomed a group of high school music students from  the Phoenix-based Rosie’s House to meet the entire cast backstage. The students had some really great questions, DSC_0018including the classic “Why did you choose your instrument?” to which Peter Eom jokingly said that his mother’s love for the cello gave him no choice. When another student asked, “How do you balance practicing and school?” the performers gave some really great tips and Adé pointed out “We all practice a lot, but still find time to have fun and be ourselves.” We took some fun group photos and offered tickets to the students so they could watch the performers “in action” for the live taping.

Be sure to tune in and hear our Mesa show the week of April 8th! Click HERE for our broadcast schedule.

Elizabeth Aoki Warms the Hearts of Elderly Residents in Phoenix, AZ

Elizabeth Aoki Photo 5

9-year-old violinist Elizabeth Aoki charmed listeners when she appeared on Show 261 in Boston, Massachusetts. During a visit to Phoenix, Arizona with her mother, Elizabeth’s musical talent also won the hearts of residents living at the Freedom Plaza Retirement Community. She worked with a family friend to organize the event and played some violin favorites for the residents (check out the program below!). They loved having the chance to meet such a talented young violinist.

The thing I most enjoy about music is getting to go to different places and dressing up. I also like seeing the smiling faces of people in the audience enjoying my music.  It seems like the people that listened to me play enjoy classical music. Because of this experience, I may want to play for retirement centers again.  – Elizabeth Aoki

Elizabeth Aoki Photo 6PROGRAM:

Édouard Lalo
Symphonie espagnole in D minor – I. Allegro non troppo

J.S. Bach
Sonata No. 1 in G minor – Adagio

Pablo de Sarasate
Introduction and Tarantella

Variations on Amazing Grace
(Traditional)

An Inspiring Visit in Denver, CO

While on tour, we have visited some really inspiring music programs in schools across the country. For our taping with the Colorado Symphony this January, we had the opportunity to connect with El Sistema Colorado – a program dedicated to “transform[ing] the lives of IMG_1010children through music.” They are in residence at the Garden Place Academy in Denver, where we brought performer Emily Switzer (a Denver-based violinist!) to meet a group of fourth grade students involved in the program.

Emily shared a variety of repertoire, from a regal Bach to a flashy Paganini. She also wanted to see just how much these students knew about the violin, asking them how different parts of the instrument contribute to the sound.  The young musicians were so excited to answer that they were practically leaping out of their seats!

Another memorable moment was Emily’s impromptu performance of “Jingle Bells” – a piece that the students had just performed for their holiday concert. After the performance, their teacher noted how hearing Emily perform that familiar piece with such talent was very inspiring for the students, demonstrating how they could keep improving on one piece of repertoire.

You can watch these highlights and more in the video below – enjoy!

Avery Gagliano Brings Joy to Bethesda’s Senior Citizens

Avery Photo 2

…many times, people in nursing homes might not have opportunities to listen and experience the passion of music…I [was able] to share the wonders of music with others and bring happiness in to someone’s life.

Even at the age of 10, pianist and Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Avery Gagliano (Show 251) can see the positive influence that music can have on others. This notion inspired her to visit with the residents at the Sunrise Senior Living at Fox Hill. Avery played piano and violin for the program, and was joined by her sister Aniah Lin (also a pianist!) and best friend Zoe Fang (violin) – all three are students at the Levine School Music in Washington, D.C. There were nearly 30 residents at the concert, and they loved having the chance to meet Avery and her friends.

We asked Avery to tell us more about her experience at Fox Hill…

FTT: Tell us what inspired you to meet with these residents?

Avery: I wanted to have the opportunity to entertain elders and to enliven their day through music. I received tremendous support from my parents, friends, the staff at Avery Photo 4Fox Hill, and the residents living there, which really made me happy.

FTT: What were some of your favorite moments?

Avery: I never thought that anyone could appreciate the music as much as they did, and it was touching to see how much they enjoyed the performance. I’ll never forget watching the residents sing along while I was playing piano and violin. I’ll also never forget shaking hands and talking to them, and hearing their appreciation and nice comments.

All these memories created a new experience I never dreamed of, and I loved every moment. This experience helped me realize how important it was for me to perform at Fox Hill, and how happy they were to see kids creating music.

FTT: What did you learn from this experience?

Avery: Overall, I learned that music is one of the best ways to heal some of the sorrow and pain the elderly people may experience, and it was my pleasure to make up for the things people may have lost. We shared music with everyone and let them experience the true beauty of music.

Avery Photo 5

Show 265: Listening Guide

performers with Jamie Allen

From the Top’s broadcast for Show 265 featuring the Dallas Symphony Orchestra (DSO) was taped at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, TX on Friday January 4, 2013. We asked our performers to tell us more about their experience on the show…

Aakash Patel, 19, violin
I. Allegro non troppo from Violin Concerto No. 3 in B minor, Op. 61
By: Camille Saint-Saëns

Saint-Saëns was a French composer, and French composers are known for their ability to create different atmospheres with their talent for understanding different textures of various instruments. When I play this piece, I think of the different atmospheres that Saint-Saëns tried to create, and relate such atmospheres to my experiences with them. This has helped me gain a deeper insight into the beauty of Saint-Saëns third Violin Concerto.

This piece contains some of the most beautiful lyrical passages I have ever played. This piece combines ideas of love and passion with a unique fluidity. For me it is a great challenge to convey this specific aspect of this piece. Although connecting the different portions of this piece together can be quite difficult, it is also quite rewarding. When I am able to convey this idea successfully, I get butterflies in my stomach.

Post-Show Reflection: I was asked, just before my performance, what it was like to finally be on the show – my response was, “pinch me, I’m dreaming!” 15 hours and many pinches later, my response should have been, “PLEASE REFRAIN FROM PINCHING!” From The Top has gotten me over so many hard blocks in my musical life – you guys keep my drive alive. Actually performing on the show was an unforgettable experience.

Many people say that man has the ability to move mountains. I was practicing outside a grocery store one day, and closed my eyes and began to play Bach’s G minor Sonata. After I finished, I opened my eyes and saw that an audience had formed – they all began to clap. I didn’t have to move any mountains, music had done it for me.

Russell Houston, 18, cello
Schelomo
By: Ernest Bloch

Whenever I play the Schelomo, I try to imagine it as the life story of a great king. I think it’s a cool piece to sit and play and really feel like a king, and the orchestra and solo parts contribute to this feeling. Further, it’s really fun to play because the orchestra parts are just so fantastic. My favorite part is the last tutti, it sounds so grandiose and overwhelmingly beautiful. When I was a little kid I used to really like the movie The Ten Commandments, and that tutti reminded me of that movie the first time I heard it. From the first time I heard this piece, I was determined to work on it, and wouldn’t stop talking about how much I loved it.

What’s really cool about the Schelomo is that it isn’t like other concerti where technique is the most important part – the Schelomo is like a painting, in that each part contributes to this overall panorama. The most important thing to communicate is the character of Solomon – the piece is about him. It’s really hard to communicate that wisdom and maturity he has in his old age, especially since I’m only 18! This piece is really fun to perform because it’s just as much about the accompaniment as the solo!

Post-Show Reflection: I loved walking out on stage for the first time at the live show – it was so validating seeing how many people were out there! The performance was great! The hall feels great to perform in, and the size of the audience was more affirming than frightening.

I think music can change lives, from changing how you feel any time you listen to having a life full of music. Music is enriching for the soul and makes life better!

Chase Dobson, 16, composer/piano
II. Sporting of the Gods from Piano Trio No.1
By: Chase Dobson

This piece is full of energy. The driving rhythm is part of it, but there’s also an element of it that comes from Aakash Patel,Chase Dobson, Russell Houston rehearsing2the three members of the trio together, all adding to the drive, competing with one another, but competing collaboratively. It takes a lot of precision to get the fine details together, but once it’s in performance, then the rush you get from it is unparalleled.

This composition is very special to me, in that it was the first composition I performed with live musicians. In the summer of 2011, I began rehearsing this trio with my friends Phoenix Abbo and Jorge Giron Vives. We prepared this movement for a benefit concert Phoenix was hosting, and we received a standing ovation at the performance, making the first public reception of my work very positive.

Post-Show Reflection: One of my favorite memories was Christopher O’Riley and the maestro’s rehearsal of the Shostakovich without the orchestral accompaniment – they both just hummed along during the piano breaks. I know it’s very specific, but it was so cool. It felt very comfortable to perform on that stage – there were so many steps to the actual performance that helped make it very easy, and very fun!

Music has the power to change live, bridge civilizations, entertain – essentially anything!

Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra (in a side-by-side performance with the DSO)
“The Great Gate of Kiev” from Pictures at an Exhibition
By: Modest Mussorgsky (orch. by Maurice Ravel)

Tiffany Mourlam, 18, viola

I absolutely love the Pictures at an Exhibition, and the “Great Gate of Kiev” is one of my favorite movements. I love the great contrasts between sections of the piece and how incredible the ending sounds. It’s one of the DSO rehearsing (1)most magical pieces of music EVER. My favorite part is definitely the beginning, where the brass play the theme. It just feels so good to sit and listen to. I also enjoy the sections where the strings rest and the winds have a few bars to enjoy the music and transitions between sections of the piece. There’s nothing about this piece that I dislike!

The orchestration is incredible! Ravel was truly a master of orchestration, and I really like the way he chose to bring Mussorgsky’s ideas about the piece (as well as his own) into the music. It’s critical that the contrasts in this piece are pronounced because Ravel asks for so many different sounds and colors in Pictures at an Exhibition. The hardest thing was to achieve that difference in tone and color. I’ve loved this piece since I heard it as a child. Getting to play it is so fulfilling!

Post-Show Reflection: It was an incredible three days! I loved my backstage naps with Annie, and getting to introduce Mr. O’Riley and Tom (Voegli) to the extremely comfortable red chairs in the lounge. I also loved meeting my stand partner Valerie. The performance was incredible! The musicians were all so nice. At one point, I just looked around and couldn’t believe we were sitting with the DSO – one of my greatest childhood dreams come true!

Music has the power to connect people and change lives! I firmly believe that it has the power to promote peace and heal people.

Morgan Mitchell, 16, cello

Honestly the adrenaline rush I get from the Baba Yagá (the previous movement) is still with me, so the opening chords help me calm down and proceed. I absolutely love the dynamic contrasts because they keep me interested in what I am playing. My favorite memory of playing the piece was from this past summer in CREDIT JOHN SERVIES -Thomas Hong, conductor of DSOLitomyšl, because we were performing in a castle (a girl’s favorite place!) and I could feel everyone around me giving 100%.

This particular movement gives me the responsibility to convey and evoke emotion. It takes you out of your own brain and problems into a world of beauty and empowerment. The hardest things about the movement are sustaining the long notes with full pwer, and feeling as an ensemble. Compared to other pieces this one is not about virtuosity or showing off – it is about reflection.

Post-Show Reflection: Being on the Meyerson Hall stage sitting next to my teacher (who inspires me more than anyone) and feeling the realization of what I was doing was really powerful. The performance was the scariest, most special and humbling feeling ever. I love that stage, and everything it stands for in a musician’s life!

Music has the power to fill anything you do with passion by allowing you to give your all.

Annie Lehman, 18, harp

A sort of chordal texture starts the piece and quickly builds to (my favorite part) the big ending, which is so exhilarating to play and literally feel because you’re surrounded by the music when you are sitting in an orchestra.

Blending the sound with both the principle harpist and the rest of the orchestra is the most difficult part of learning this piece. Playing with a professional harpist adds a new dimension to playing in an orchestra, and provides a great learning experience.

Post-Show Reflection: My favorite moments were performing on the stage, being interviews by Christopher O’Riley, and seeing the behind-the-scenes of the show backstage. The show itself was AMAZING! I thought I would be nervous but I felt so comfortable talking and performing, and actually had tons of fun!

Music has the power to change everything – it can help others by allowing them bring across ideas that can’t be said with words, and can give you a knowledge of other cultures.

From the Top in Sarasota: Coping with Stage Fright

DSC_3197After our taping at the Sarasota Opera House this past December, we brought performers Jennifer Kim (guitar), Kaitlyn Resler (horn), and From the Top alum Abe Feder (cello) to meet a dynamic group of students involved in the Visual & Performing Arts (VPA) program at Booker High School. The presentation featured our performers playing some solo pieces and talking about musical experiences, and gave the VPA audience ample opportunity to share their own ideas and questions with the performers.

We had a great discussion on issue of stage fright, talking about ways that we as performers can learn to cope with our nerves. Abe, as the principal cellist with the Sarasota Orchestra, had a ton of fabulous ideas. Check out the video below to see some highlights from our conversation:

Eric Segerstrom Brings Smiles to Albany’s Youth Receiving Family Therapy and Support

Eric

Because these presentations took place…right after the holidays, I wanted to bring some happiness to these kids who have been through so much hardship. Furthermore, I wanted to introduce them to music that they normally would not be so exposed to.”

Percussionist and Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Eric Segerstrom (Show 237) wanted to connect with children from his hometown who hadn’t had the same musical opportunities that he had growing up, so he reached out to the Parsons Child & Family Center: a residential facility for families and children coping with domestic hardship. Working with three separate groups of kids at the center, Eric performed a combination of classical and hip-hop works on marimba, and then helped the kids build their own instruments using paper plates and plastic cups. At the end of the event was a full-group performance using the newly made instruments. The experience provided Eric with a whole new perspective on the ways he can share classical music with younger audiences.

We asked Eric to share more with us about his visit to the Parsons Center…

FTT: How did these presentations differ from your previous work with kids?

Eric: Before this, whenever I worked with kids, they were privileged and fortunate New York City kids who wanted to learn a little more about composition. Yet talking about classical music with kids who have no background in it, while also trying to make it fun and exciting, is a lot harder than it sounds. For the first time, I really felt like I had to step up to show these kids what I knew and how music can be new and fun.

FTT: What were some of the challenges you encountered?

Eric: The most challenging moment for me was the first presentation: I had almost no idea what to expect going into it. I had been prepped a little beforehand by one of the Directors of Therapeutic Recreation, who suggested just working with the kids and going with the things they wanted to do. However, this is really tough advice to follow when you aren’t getting any visible feedback from your audience! Before I knew it, I had gone through all of the pieces I had prepared with 45 minutes left in the presentation! I was a little embarrassed, and felt badly that I hadn’t done what I had hoped to do. I went home and came up with a few more ideas for the next presentation, including combining their interest in hip-hop with classical music. I felt much more prepared the next day.

FTT: What were some memorable moments?

Eric: The most memorable moments were definitely those in which I realized that I had left some sort of impact on the kids. On my last day at the Parsons Center, there was a particularly rambunctious kid who spent much of his time with me running around the room and flailing his newly made shaker in the air. When everyone had left and I was packing up, one of the Directors told me that she had never seen that kid so happy for so long.

Another memorable moment was my second day: this was the smallest group I played for with only three or four kids. However, they were so genuinely interested in the marimba and the music I was playing that their questions filled up a majority of the presentation!

FTT: What did you take away from this experience?

Eric: I think my time at the Parson’s Center showed that music can help people, even if it’s in a small way. The kids that I worked with all seemed pretty happy when they left, and I think it piqued an interest in some, or at least a curiosity, to the idea of classical music and the marimba. This is why I strongly believe that funding for the arts cannot be cut out of school or federal budgets…the impact of a creative and emotional outlet can be vastly underestimated, especially when it comes to kids.

FTT: What do you think it means to be an arts leader? 

Eric: To me, being an arts leader is about giving back and passing on what you know. As a college student, I’m in a rather unique position: I have knowledge that I can pass on to kids, peers, or even adults about music and composition, yet I am young enough that my peers and younger kids can relate to me more so than they would to an adult. I got to this point because of other people who took the time to teach me and pass on what they knew. I believe that being an arts leader is really about using what you know to benefit others, whether it is by teaching, performing, writing, or speaking.

Check out this video created by the Parsons Child & Family Center with highlights from Eric’s visit: 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 62 other followers

%d bloggers like this: