Taking it Beyond the Concert Hall: From the Top at the Boston Children’s Museum

It’s that time again! The leaves are changing color, the air is getting crisper, and Boston’s young musicians are in the midst of another academic year. Lots of music is yet to be made, some in a formal concert hall, some out in our community. We find it’s the unexpected encounters with music that often have the most meaning.

If you live in Greater Boston and would like to introduce a child to a musical instrument for the first time, or see a talented From the Top arts leader perform up close, we have a great program for you! Young musicians from our Center for the Development of Arts Leaders will perform and present at the Boston Children’s Museum on selected Fridays at 6:00 PM and 6:30 PM. The two short programs will delight you and your kids, and be a perfect compliment to your museum experience.

We are excited for the second year of this partnership between From the Top and the Boston Children’s Museum! For From the Top’s arts leaders, it is one of the most meaningful ways to share their music with the community. For many of the children in the audience, it will be their first experience with live music or a musical instrument.

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Above: Cellist and From the Top alum Lev Mamuya performing last year at

the Boston Children’s Museum

“Collaborating with Boston Children’s Museum is a great way to help our young arts leaders share their music and passions,” said Linda Gerstle, From the Top’s Director of Education & Community Partnerships. “We hope that the kids and families at the Museum have fun, and that our musicians experience what it means to inspire a new audience.”

Join From the Top’s arts leaders at the Boston Children’s Museum on these dates this season: November 14, 2014, January 16, 2015, February 20, 2015, and April 17, 2015 at 6:00 PM and 6:30 PM. 

For additional information on the series and on the Boston Children’s Museum, visit www.BostonChildrensMuseum.org

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Milestones, Music, and More

Over the last 10 years, From the Top and the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation have worked hard to ensure that financial need does not keep extraordinary young people from realizing their dreams. More than $2 million in scholarships have been awarded to more than 200 young musicians through the From the Top Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award. The two non-profit organizations (who also happen to be celebrating their 15th anniversaries) are marking this remarkable milestone with a special recording of NPR’s hit radio show, From the Top with host Christopher O’Riley, in Washington, DC, at the Lisner Auditorium on October 24.

As Harold Levy, Executive Director for the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, explains, “Every time a gifted child is unable to realize his or her full potential because the family lacks the means for support, a little bit of the American dream dies.”

The $10,000 Young Artist Award helps musicians and their families bridge the gap in paying for instruments, private music lessons, and summer camp tuition. In addition, recipients perform on From the Top’s national radio show and receive arts leadership training, designed to inspire young musicians to use their gifts to improve their own communities. Each Young Artist also completes an arts leadership project in their home community and reports back to From the Top to document their progress.

While the Award provides a very tangible financial benefit, many of the recipients share that the award gives them something less concrete, but equally powerful: the encouragement to pursue their goals. 18-year-old soprano Olivia Cosio received the award in 2014. She said:

The Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award allowed me to reach goals that would have been otherwise unattainable. I was reminded that someone believed in my abilities and the abilities of many other young musicians.

On October 24, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation will sponsor a special recording of From the Top, presented by Washington Performing Arts at GW Lisner Auditorium. This exciting concert recording will showcase and celebrate Young Artist Award recipients:

  • 8-year-old pianist Oscar Paz-Suaznabar from Alexandria, Virginia
  • 15-year-old violinist Kiarra Saito-Beckman from Bend, Oregon
  • 16-year-old flutist Taiga Ultan originally from New York City and currently studying at Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan.
  • Marcelina Suchocka, an alum of From the Top and a previous recipient of the Young Artist Award, will appear with her percussion ensemble, Excelsis.
  • The Washington Performing Arts’ Children of the Gospel choir, which is supported, in part, by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.

The October 24 recording of From the Top is presented by Washington Performing Arts and sponsored by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. For tickets and information, visit http://www.washingtonperformingarts.org.

Soft Rains, Big Sounds

On a cool, crisp November day last fall, as the leaves completed their yearly makeover of the New England hills, painting them in swaths of red and orange, a rainstorm was brewing INSIDE of Boston’s Symphony Hall.

Some of the area’s best musicians had gathered on stage of the historic music venue along with From the Top’s Music Director Tom Vignieri to record a very special piece of music. Tom’s hauntingly beautiful piece “There Will Come Soft Rains” was commissioned by the Columbus Children’s Choir and by Deborah Price and the Chamber Music Connection – a music program in Ohio that has had many performers featured on our NPR show.

“There Will Come Soft Rains” was written using the text of Sara Teasdale’s poem (by the same name and written during World War I) about nature reclaiming a world devastated by war. In the video below, you can see many From the Top alumni and staff members, and hear them create a rainstorm with their voices and instruments. Enjoy!

 

From the Top Staff
Michael Dahlberg, cello
Shea Mavros, soprano
Erin Nolan, viola
Wendy Perrotta, soprano
Claire Shepro, alto

From the Top Alumni
Claire Bourg, violin
Jonah Ellsworth, cello
Brian Hong, violin
Anna Lee, violin
Laura Liu, violin
Taeguk Mun, cello
Clayton Penrose-Whitmore, violin
Haruno Sato, violin
Amelia Sie, violin
Kiyoe Wellington, double bass

What Would Beethoven Do?

We would like to think that if Beethoven arrived in the 21st century, hearing magically restored, he would see the performers on From the Top as a sign of the invigorated future for classical music, full of passion, humor, and music that defies labels. He’d see the music schools and programs that we visit around the country as we do, as pockets of concentrated energy surrounding classical music. For example, on our recent trip to the Aspen Music Festival and School, where hundreds of young musicians gather to learn and perform the music that they love so dearly, we imagined Beethoven strolling along past the quaint wooden practice rooms listening to the strains of piano, flute, violin and more filling the fresh mountain air. I have a hard time imagining in that setting that anyone would be concerned for the future of classical music.

Enter Here Comes Treble Productions, a documentary film crew that believes that there are many individuals and organizations out there doing great things to propel classical music forward. Their film, What Would Beethoven Do? shares the stories of people like Benjamin Zander, who is building the next generation of classical musicians in the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra; Eric Whitacre, who is bringing classical music into the digital age with his Virtual Youth Choir; Bobby McFerrin, who is challenging audiences with performances filled with fun and humor; and many more people who are doing amazing things with classical music.

The film so closely relates to what From the Top is interested in that we had to see what these guys were all about. They followed us around on our taping in Aspen and talked with some of the performers on our show, as well as our host, Christopher O’Riley, who is at the forefront of bringing classical music to new audiences. Here’s hoping we might help make the film that much better!

Check out their trailer below and let us know what you think Beethoven would do in the 21st century!

What Would Beethoven Do? | New Documentary Teaser from What Would Beethoven Do on Vimeo.

Exploring Arts Leadership with the National Youth Orchestra of the USA

On July 16, we recorded a show with the National Youth Orchestra of the USA (NYOUSA). Our friends at Carnegie Hall bring this orchestra of amazing young musicians together each summer, and the result is pretty incredible. (You can listen to the show here, if you’d like. We highly recommend it!) The next day, From the Top staff took the entire orchestra through our Arts Leadership Workshop, led by Director of Education & Community Partnerships, Linda Gerstle. We asked Linda to share some of her favorite moments.

PS: It’s worth noting that normally, a From the Top Arts Leadership Workshop has less than 20 young musicians involved. This time, there were a few more.

NYOUSA Arts Leadership Workshop July 2014
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REQUIEM! Classical Music is Dying in America!

120 members of the National Youth Orchestra of the USA debated this with conviction – from strongly agree to strongly disagree with shades of gray in between. A chorus of voices engaged with the big issues at play in their world – what it means to take it beyond the concert hall as 21st century musicians, how an orchestra can be a resource to a community – an apt illustration of the overall tone of the arts leadership workshop for Carnegie Hall’s NYOUSA.

Orchestra member (and From the Top alum) Audrey Chen summed it up best:

It was amazing seeing everyone speak out and voice their opinions. The whole orientation really went so far to show that all of us can not only play great music but can also communicate our ideas really well!

Exploring the ways music can transform lives – as individuals, small and large ensembles – was viewed from many perspectives, using an array of From the Top alumni examples. Whether raising dollars to benefit a rare blood disease like alum Stephanie Block, or mobilizing an entire community to address the gap in musical opportunities across a district’s schools like alum Thomas West, it was inspiring to watch pre-collegiate musicians tell their stories to empower others. Michael Dahlberg, an alum of the radio show and now a member of From the Top’s education team, narrated his personal journey, helping the audience to define their own version of success for themselves, envisioning the possibilities in their lives.

NYOUSA Arts Leaders at work

This workshop was just the beginning; with outreach opportunities built into the five week NYOUSA tour schedule, each participant was asked to take a question or thought from the orientation that they wanted to explore throughout the course of the tour. One of From the Top’s primary goals for the arts leadership workshop was to leave orchestra members feeling as excited and curious about the opportunities outside the concert hall as those that lie within. Many expressed an eagerness to take a next step – and we look forward to showcasing their leadership moments that we know will inspire current and future audiences.

In the meantime, check out the incredible array of thoughtful responses to a simple question:

“Music has the power to…?”

 

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In addition, here are some other quotes from the participants about the arts leadership workshop:

One of the highlights for me from the From the Top workshop was definitely the emphasis put on thinking outside the box… I think the whole workshop was very eye-opening for a lot of us.”
–Lily Honigberg

“I have always had the general idea that I wanted to use music to create positive change in the world, and the orientation helped bring focus to my ideas… A lot of what my colleagues said I had not considered yet, in examining the question, and I was glad to broaden my understanding of something so key in what I am choosing to do with my life… There was a lot of variation in how the material was presented, and we were all engaged.”
–Josephine Stockwell

[the orientation] really left a strong impression on me, and also got me thinking about what I could begin to do in college, and how I could build upon and put into action the big and small ideas I previously had on this topic of community engagement for artists.”
–Soyeong Park

 

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PS: Editor’s Note – It’s pretty clear that classical music is alive and well thanks to these young people.

Notes from Aspen

Well, there’s no doubt that being in a place as gorgeous as Aspen gets the creative juices flowing. I mean, really, how can you not feel inspired when this is your view?

Mountains, pond, Aspen

Tonight (8/3/14), we’ll record a show of From the Top with host Christopher O’Riley. We’ll feature a host of incredibly talented musicians who are here at the Aspen Music Festival and School. Seriously, these kids will blow you away with their talent, and we’ll tell you more about them later on.

But today, what strikes me the most about this experience is being poised on the edge of something, and I don’t mean all the cliffs around here. We are surrounded by young people, at the top of their musical game, who are experiencing the ultimate training and music-making experience. And we grown ups are smack in the middle of the swirl of energy and potential, pondering how best to help these incredible young people bring their talents and viewpoints to a larger audience.

The folks from the “What Would Beethoven Do?” documentary crew have been following us around, asking us all kinds of questions about why classical music is relevant, how we can bring more people to it..all those questions that those of us in the classical music field tackle on a daily basis. Not surprisingly, we’re finding that the young musicians have some incredible answers.

Just a few moments ago, we heard flute player and From the Top alum Anthony Trionfo talk to the documentary crew about his experiences as a young musician.

Anthony Trionfo interviewed

Anthony, age 19, already a teacher and a young philosopher who believes that “music is about healing”, is full of ideas and thoughts on how classical music can make life better. Here’s my favorite quote of his, when he was asked how musicians can help bring more people to classical music. “We can play in parks, anywhere,” he says. “The world is (our) concert hall.”

Right now, 16-year-old cellist Lucy Ticho is telling us of her love for movie soundtracks, and how, when she’s in an angsty mood, she likes to listen to Shostakovich; it lifts her up. “Imagine if everyone had that,” she says. “Imagine if they could use classical music to change their mood.”

For anyone who has doubts about the intelligence and compassion of young people today, I wish you could be here with us, listening to these kids. They are inspiring, energetic, and thoughtful. Luckily, you can hear them on the week of October 6 on the radio, on our website, or via our podcast.

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

 

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