From the Top Receives Piano Pedagogy Award

As we begin our new season in Aspen, Colorado, this coming week, we’re (between planning meetings) reflecting on the great things that have happened with From the Top this last year. The 2013-2014 season was full of amazing young musicians, unforgettable performances, and unique venues. But we also had some great moments that weren’t on the radio!

This past winter, From the Top was honored with the 2014 Frances Clark Keyboard Pedagogy Award from the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA), an organization that seeks to further the study and making of music.

This award is given to those who make “a significant contribution through the creation and development of products or publications that further the field of keyboard pedagogy.”

We reflect happily on this award as we prepare for the future. It is great to know that our activities at From the Top have furthered the pedagogy. It is a proud reminder of how much music education really matters!

We thank the MTNA for this great honor, and are proud to sit among highly esteemed recipients as we further the cause of music education. Cheers to more great collaborations and contributions to come.

 

Co-CEO Jennifer Hurly-Wales receiving the award this past winter

MTNA

Photo copyright 2014 Harry Butler, Nashville

 

Collaborating for a Cause – From the Top & Music for Food

It is just past 8:00 PM in New England Conservatory’s Brown Hall where a single piano is set center stage. The lights dim, the audience quiets down, and 18-year-old cellist and From the Top alum Lev Mamuya steps out from behind the curtain.

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Inspired by the arts leadership orientation and outreach event he participated in as components of his October radio appearance on From the Top, Lev decided to create a From the Top alumni benefit concert. This concert was put on in partnership with Music for Food, a Boston-based organization that uses music to raise awareness and resources in the fight against hunger. The project also satisfied his senior project requirement at Roxbury Latin High School.

“100% of the proceeds of tonight’s performance will benefit the Women’s Lunch Place,” he says to end his speech, and the audience murmurs excitedly.

The languid tones of the Bach Suite No. 6 for Solo Cello, the sweet blend of flute and harp in Mozart’s Concerto, and the passion in Schumann’s Piano Sonata No. 2 in G Minor filled the hall. With several other pieces, From the Top alumni and staff are the featured performers of the evening. An enthusiastic audience response generates close to $1,200 in donations for the Women’s Lunch Place, a safe, welcoming day community for all self-identified women who are experiencing homelessness or poverty.

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“The most rewarding part was definitely seeing it all come together on the evening of the concert, and understanding the impact the raised money would have,” Lev reflects. “It was sometimes easy to get lost in the tedium of the emails, scheduling, and legwork. But reading about the number of meals funded and hearing all of the beautiful music really affirmed my goals, and made the whole project very rewarding.”

The success of this endeavor is a noteworthy event for both organizations because it is the first time they have worked together.

“The project really started to help me consider a career in the arts,” Lev says. “It was an extremely valuable learning process for me to be on the ‘organization’ side of things and learn about planning, rather than just performing.”

Do you use art to help a worthy cause?

Learn more about the Women’s Lunch Place. Learn more about Music for Food.

In Their Own Words – Rapping It up in Norfolk

Last month, From the Top returned to the Virginia Arts Festival for a performance in the historic Attucks Theatre in Norfolk. The Rhythm Project All Stars, the Virginia Arts Festival’s teen world percussion ensemble, was featured on the show.

 

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In addition, featured soloists included 11-year-old pianist Kyle Hu, 16-year-old double bassist Lena Goodson, 17-year-old soprano Emily Pogorelc, 15-year-old violinist Alissa Mori, and brothers 19-year-old violinist Brendon Elliott and 14-year-old cellist Sterling Elliott.

In the minutes before the concert, the performers had some fun backstage.

“Before our show, the Rhythm Project All Stars were just jamming out in the back dressing room,” Lena said. “I rapped! They were having a lot of fun, so everyone joined in. We had a rap battle. It was wild. We all mixed really well, it wasn’t like the soloists were segregated from the large ensemble. We all became best friends!”

After the backstage activities, the stage was set, the lights were up, and an enthusiastic audience filled the first floor of the Attucks Theatre. It was time to perform.

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After each performance, the crowd roared with thunderous applause and each performer took several bows with grins on their faces. Lena described a touching interaction she had with one audience member following the performance.

“My goal for my performance was that I wanted the audience to feel something. After the show, an older lady came up to me – she was blind, so she was holding my hand – she told me that when she was younger, she had played the double bass and that it had brought back memories hearing me play.”

Alissa described a similar interaction with an audience member, her favorite moment of the weekend. “A young boy told me he wants to play the violin to become someone like me.”

Alissa quickly learned that From the Top was more than she had imagined it would be. “I thought I would just meet other performers my age, but it was more than that. I learned it was about the experience with them,” she told us.

Were you in the audience in Virginia? Comment and tell us about your experience!

In the next “In Their Own Words” series blog post, read more about how the performers took music beyond the concert hall in their arts leadership orientation and visiting an elementary school in Norfolk, Virginia.

Playing It Forward in Tennessee

Thomas West had quite the experience when he appeared on our live taping of From the Top in 2012.

Thomas West on From the Top 2012

While singing to a sold-out audience for a live radio taping was a highlight for him, one of the most remarkable moments was a smaller, more intimate performance at Dalewood Middle School. From the Top’s education staff organized an outreach event at the Chattanooga middle school for the performers to put their arts leadership training into practice. There, Thomas and his fellow performers witnessed first-hand how arts programs struggle to stay alive in many schools.

Thomas remembers the experience vividly: “It was there that I saw a room full of girls and boys eager to learn about and play music, but hardly anything to accomplish this desire. It tore at my heartstrings to see so many kids only a few years younger than me never getting the same opportunities I had to play music on a day-to-day basis. I realized then that something needed to be done, and I had just been handed a chance to champion that need.”

That realization sent Thomas on a journey to make a real difference in his own community. He quickly recruited three friends – Ralston Hartness, Megan Daniel, and McKenna Quatro – to become part of his project called “Let Beauty Awaken.” Their idea: give other teen artists in the Chattanooga area a chance to help by sharing their talents on a CD that would be sold to raise funds for local schools’ music programs.  The team even planned and sold tickets to a CD release party at the Chattanooga Theatre Center as an additional fundraiser.

Let Beauty Awaken

Fast forward to 2014. We featured Ralston Hartness in a guitar quartet on our recent taping in Chattanooga, and he and Thomas brought us up to speed on their amazing work in the area.

Thomas and Ralston

After raising over $14,000 for local schools with “Let Beauty Awaken,” the teens created the non-profit organization ReGenerate, an arts leadership program for and by students in Chattanooga. The organization is training other young arts leaders to find their own pathways to make a difference in their community. They are continuing to fundraise for arts programs and making the decisions about how best to fund local arts programs.

Ralston and the other From the Top performers visited East Lake Elementary School and Calvin Donaldson Elementary School the day after their performance at the Tivoli Theatre. Ralston found the experience as impactful as Thomas had found his outreach visit back in 2012. Ralston tells us he is inspired to redouble his efforts with ReGenerate: “My hope is to pour into ReGenerate and Chattanooga schools so that when I leave, the efforts can continue with students here for years to come. I’ve been excited about giving our money out to schools, but never more than now. Now that I have seen the programs at East Lake and Calvin Donaldson Elementary Schools I really want to give out the money!”

You can hear Ralston’s guitar quartet’s performance on From the Top’s broadcast during the week of February 24. Visit www.fromthetop.org to listen online or check your local NPR listings.

For more on Thomas West and the ReGenerate project, visit Thomas’ website, or check out the ReGenerate facebook page.

Application Deadline for Blount-Slawson Competition this Friday, December 6th!

The Blount-Slawson Young Artists Competition, offering a total of nearly $17,000 in prizes, will be held in Montgomery, Alabama, January 25 and 26, 2014.

Instrumentalists (except organ) in grades 7 – 12 who live and attend school in the United States are eligible to compete.

First Prize:  $10,000, an appearance with the Montgomery Symphony and an appearance on From The Top
Second Prize:      $4,000
Third Prize:          $1,000
Fourth Prize:           $500
Five Merit Prizes:    $250

Competitors may also use their performance in the preliminary round as their audition for the 2014 BUTI.  See the website for specifics.

New this year! Apply online: http://www.montgomerysymphony.org/comp_Blount_Application.htm

All of the details regarding the competition and the application process and forms can be found on at http://www.montgomerysymphony.org. Questions may be sent to montgomerysymphony@gmail.com.

Coast to Coast with Donors and Friends

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Wilfred Mamuya, Hilary Kassler, and Hope Baker celebrate together after the show. Photo by Caitlin Cunningham.

From the Top was on the road last month, hosting several special events for board members, donors, and friends.

On October 6, more than 100 guests joined From the Top performers and Christopher O’Riley for a private reception following a live taping in Boston at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall.

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Elizabeth Lodal, Sharon Percy Rockefeller, and Gail West enjoy an evening of music. Photo by The Documentist

On October 22, 65 guests gathered with Christopher O’Riley and From the Top alumni at the home of Jan and Elizabeth Lodal in McLean, Virginia. The event was co-hosted by From the Top corporate sponsor Glenmede, an investment, fiduciary, and wealth advisory firm. This was the seventh in a series of events that From the Top has hosted with Glenmede offices throughout the nation.

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Hosts Jan and Elizabeth Lodal with From the Top performers Sterling Elliott, Avery Gagliano, and Ren Martin-Doike. Photo by The Documentist

Guests enjoyed performances by From the Top alumni 12-year-old Avery Gagliano, 14-year-old Sterling Elliott, 22-year-old Ren Martin-Doike, and host Christopher O’Riley. Christopher spoke with Avery about how the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey has helped her manage an incredibly busy schedule. Sterling shared that, as the last child to be born in the Elliott family, the only instrument left in the family quartet was cello, hence, he is a cellist (and a pretty fantastic one). Ren talked about how her affiliation with From the Top for many years has helped her take music beyond the concert hall and develop mentorship programs for other young musicians, both in her hometown in Hawaii and at the Curtis Institute of Music.

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Pianist Brenda Kee and Wayne Brown, Music and Opera Director at the National Endowment for the Arts. Photo by The Documentist

That evening, guests included Stuart Haney of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and his wife Paula; Wayne Brown from the National Endowment for the Arts and his wife Brenda Kee; Sharon Percy Rockefeller of classical music and television station WETA, along with several members of the WETA Board of Trustees; and Arnold Polinger from the Howard and Geraldine Polinger Family Foundation and his wife Diane.

A week later, From the Top was off to New York City for an event at the home of Bethany and Robert Millard. More than 45 donors and friends enjoyed performances by From the Top alums Elli Choi, Patrick McGuire, and Brian Ge on October 30.

12-year-old violinist and jetsetter Elli Choi had just returned from Switzerland, where she had been attending a music festival supported by From the Top’s Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award. Patrick McGuire, a 23-year-old cellist, shared how his passion for music, mentorship, and international relations has led to musical projects in Tanzania and Tunisia. 16-year-old Brian Ge talked about the important role music plays in his life, even though he plans to pursue other interests in college.

The evening’s guests included From the Top Artistic Advisor and President of The Juilliard School Joseph Polisi and his wife Elizabeth; From the Top Overseer and MSNBC President Phil Griffin and his wife Kory Apton; Jean Fitzgerald of U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management; Randy Harris from the Edward T. Cone Foundation; and Dr. Mark Siddall of the American Museum of Natural History.

From the Top’s most recent event followed a sold out live taping at Bing Concert Hall on the campus of Stanford University in California. On November 10, nearly 60 guests joined From the Top performers and Christopher O’Riley for a private reception  – generously hosted by Helen and Peter Bing – following the show.

To view photos from our event in Boston, Massachusetts, click here.

To view photos from our event in McLean, Virginia, click here.

Upcoming private events for donors and friends are planned in Boston, Massachusetts, and Southern Florida. With questions or for more information, please contact give@fromthetop.org.

Show 277, Bowling Green, Ohio, Listening Guide

 229Chason Goldfinger, 17, composer
String Quartet No. 1, Elemental, Op. 15
IV. Salamandrae (Fire)

Fire is very much about the element itself of fire. When I was thinking fire, and like fire, it has some semblance of order – it consumes, but not radially.  It expands and moves in different directions with the fuel  and so it also feels a little chaotic. To get that feeling, I created this little tiny motive that starts in the beginning and if the piece is played really well, the audience should feel the intensity of rushing really fast somewhere to get away from the burning sensation especially when contrasted with the movement before it.  That original motif goes a way and this sort of Gypsy like tone comes in for the middle section. That section first comes in with a high and graceful violin and it’s strange and it’s pulse is quickening. And with the fire, while you’re not touching it, you feel the fire stinging your face and you feel the heat and the light.  The light is as important as the heat in the movement.  If you’re approaching the movement coming out of the rest of the quartet, it has this nice element of surprise—with this jarring classical structure.  And then it should feel over before it’s happened.
Fire in particular, it is certainly fun to play.  I’ve played it.

A favorite memory or highlight:
There were so many but probably the SHOW! But something like the jam session was awesome!

What do you believe music has the power to do?
Music has the power to CHANGE LIVES!!

Sein An, 15, violin 120
Havanaise in E Major, Op. 83
By: Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921)

On the Saint-Saëns Havanaise
This is the piece I’ve always wanted to play from my childhood. It’s not as well-known as the other Saint-Saëns works, but it’s something I’ve always listened to before I was learning it because I loved the Spanish style. I’m so happy that I get to play this piece. I’m trying to communicate the rhythm of it –  it’s kind of dance-like, the style of it. I want to get the audience to listen to the style of it. The hardest part is getting the right mood and style. It’s technically challenging, so you want the technical part and the musical part to blend together.

A favorite memory or highlight:
This is very EASY for me to answer. Phone call from Janine Jansen. <3 Thank you!

What do you believe music has the power to do?
Music has the power to make you realize the beauty of everything, not only in music, but also in the life of Beethoven! Or just anything.

 75Patrick Pan, 15, piano
II. Scherzo: Allegretto vivace
from Sonata No. 18 in E-flat Major, Op. 31, No. 3 “The Hunt”
By: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827)

On the Beethoven piece he will perform on the show:
I picked up the piece a couple months ago and it’s really exciting. It’s the second movement of a Beethoven sonata and the entire sonata works with the title called The Hunt. It has a jovial character but also in some places has that signature of the Beethoven forte and it’s very representative of this cheeky and playful character. Of course that’s Beethoven’s signature style– intermixing of that genius with classical style.

A favorite memory or highlight:
Jam session just minutes before the show started.

What do you believe music has the power to do?
Music is truly a universal language that can make friends from enemies and really bond anybody.

Quartet Lumiére 221
String Quartet No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26
I. Un poco andante – Allegro molto ed agitato
By: Edvard Grieg (1843–1907)
AND
String Quartet No. 1, Elemental, Op. 15
IV. Salamandrae (Fire)
Chason Goldfinger (b. 1996)

On the Grieg String Quartet:
Rebecca Benjamin: I think definitely the piece that we most got into was the Grieg. It was so powerful. In rehearsal it was so big and grand, so it was really exciting to get to share that with everybody. It was a piece that we all really connected to and felt so strongly about.
Mira Williams: I think definitely the Grieg was kind of our showpiece. Exciting and powerful. There’s a bit at the end where Josiah has the solo, and me, Gallia and Rebecca have harmonics, or tremolos, and it sounds really cool and he comes in with the solo. The whole piece before that moment is very intense and dramatic, and then that part is dramatic too but in a very different way.
Josiah Yoo: I think since Grieg is kind of nationalistic folk music, the whole piece almost sounds like a superhero, action kind of story. At the beginning, and when the beginning comes back, I can picture a superhero over a town or something, and then when it gets to the second melody, it’s pleading and in pain and almost desperate. At that point, it’s kind of like the people are in distress, and they have no help and they’re kind of doomed. But the hero seems to come back in different parts of the piece.

On the Goldfinger Quartet:
Gallia Kastner: The fourth movement is really cool. It kind of reminds me of that modern, Shostakovich feel. It’s something really out there – it’s very cool. I’ve never played anything like it. It’s very interesting. Sometimes it gets a little wacky, a little weird in some places, but I think that’s what makes the piece stand out. This young composer, whoever he is, I think he’s amazing. He composed something this complex and this hard. Learning these notes is difficult, at least for the first violin part. I think it’s definitely really cool and I enjoyed learning it.
Rebecca Benjamin: I think it’s a very unique piece in really remarkable kind of style. It seems very quirky to me but at the same time it’s genius. The 4th movement which we performed is the fire element and I think Chason captured that very well in the piece. It’s kind of chaotic, very loud and harsh. It was really fun to play, and wonderful being able to work with the composer himself.

Gallia Kastner, 16, violin

A favorite memory or highlight:
Coming back to the show with my quartet and playing Chason’s piece

What do you believe music has the power to do?
It has the power to save lives. Changes someone’s perspective about classical music and their own life.

Rebecca Benjamin, 18, violin

A favorite memory or highlight:
The opportunity to be together with my quartet again and play together on the show was an experience I’ll never forget. It had always been a dream of mine to be on From the Top and I can’t imagine a better experience than I had with my quartet.

Jamming backstage before the show was so fun!

Playing Chason’s piece on the live show was amazing.  There was so much energy and enthusiasm that night. I had never played a modern piece when the composer was present – LOVED the experience!!! It made me want to do more of that in the future.

What do you believe music has the power to do?
Music has the power to change lives. It can bring so much encouragement and joy to others.

Mira Williams, 15, viola

A favorite memory or highlight:
-our performance of Chason’s piece
-the mini jam session backstage

What do you believe music has the power to do?
-connect anyone and everyone
-evoke intense emotions…

Josiah Yoo, 15, cello

A favorite memory or highlight:
Improv just before the show ☺

What do you believe music has the power to do?
Change a life.
Change every life.

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