Arts Leadership Plans from the Performers from Show 280, Wingate, North Carolina

Each of the performers on Show 280 attended an Arts Leadership Orientation Workshop, where they explored their own personal leadership pathways. Learn how they are taking their music beyond the concert hall in their own communities:

Hannah Wang is reigniting an idea that she tabled in the fall. She plans to bring together local musicians for a jam session and instrument petting zoo at a local park or school in the spring or summer.

Clara Gerdes wrote us an email about her plans to visit a local assisted living facility:

“For an arts outreach activity, I would like to organize some friends and acquaintances with whom I often sing and play instruments to do a few informal concerts at a nursing home early next month.  We would present a variety of different styles of music, from classical to folk, and include some familiar songs the residents could sing along to–this is something I’ve noticed elderly people often really respond to and enjoy.  Also, I would like to go in the weeks after Christmas and New Year’s; many places seem to get a lot of attention before but not right after the holidays. “

Qing Yu Chen will be organizing a visit to a retirement home in New York City in the springand she hopes to involve other From the Top Alumni. Currently in the initialn planning stages, she is thinking over the goals and gameplan for her project as well as brainstorming the resources she would need to make it happen.

Olivia Staton has jumped into her own arts leadership projects since the taping. Through the music honor society at her school, she began assisting with an after-school music program in a local elementary school. The program, called Bridges, provides group music lessons and ensemble rehearsals. Recently, she demonstrated flute and assisted with one of their band rehearsals, and she envisions extending the program to other area elementary schools.

She said of the experience: “Until From the Top I had not really realized the significance of promoting classical music, and I had not really thought about what I could do to help, but now I am so excited to be doing more arts leadership activities.  Especially since there are opportunities for me to do so in my neighborhood!”

Olivia also performed in a student recital at a retirement home and took the lead in initiating an engaging conversation after the performance when everyone was afraid to speak. Following the performance, she said, “the audience seemed very engaged and happy to speak with all of the musicians and then they asked if we would be able to come back to give another recital!”

Taking It From the Top at Pope John Paul II Catholic Academy

It’s 7:30 AM on a Monday morning at the Columbia Campus of Pope John Paul II Catholic Academy in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Kids grades K-8 have filed into the gymnasium for their usual morning meeting. Sitting in rows with backpacks and coats still on, they suddenly hear a saxophone above them play, “Oh When the Saints, Go Marching In…” The song continues with violin, melodica, cello, and voice as four teenagers come on stage to join the saxophonist above them in the crow’s nest.

Photo by Caitlin Cunningham

Surprise concert at the Columbia Campus.  Photo by Caitlin Cunningham

This was the kick-off to From the Top’s residency at Pope John Paul II Catholic Academy, an elementary school located on multiple campuses in the Dorchester and Mattapan neighborhoods of the City of Boston. The residency was comprised of a series of assemblies and concerts at three of the school’s four campuses, bringing the power of music to 1,000 kids.

Photo by Caitlin Cunningham

Chad Lilley kicks off the assembly. Photo by Caitlin Cunningham

Thanks to a grant provided by the Free for All Concert Fund, From the Top was thrilled to visit this school in our hometown, especially since the school is so committed to music education. 600 Pope John Paul II students participate in an after-school string program. From the Top’s visit with five performers from our October 6 radio taping at NEC’s Jordan Hall served to inspire this school full of budding musicians to embrace music and keep practicing.

Mary Swanton, Music Director at Pope John Paul II Catholic Academy, opened the assemblies by telling her students that the From the Top performers left her speechless!

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Performers following their radio show taping at NEC’s Jordan Hall on October 6.

The interactive assemblies drew inspiration from the stories and talents of our From the Top performers – 17-year-old saxophonist Chad Lilley from Olney, Maryland; 17-year-old cellist Lev Mamuya from Newton Highlands, Massachusetts; 16-year-old pianist Niu Niu from China but now living in Natick, Massachusetts; 17-year-old mezzo-soprano Olivia Cosio from San Francisco, California; and 16-year-old violinist Yuki Beppu from Lexington, Massachusetts.

Students imagined what colors and images they heard in Lev’s performance of a Debussy Cello Sonata – purple, black, red, and rainbows.

Photo by Caitlin Cunningham

What do you imagine?  Photo by Caitlin Cunningham

They chose sound effects for Chad to play on the saxophone from a long striped hat – such as circular breathing, playing two notes at once, and slap tongue. Watch the game here:

Yuki shared her dream of making more kids listen to classical music and after an intense performance of Ysaÿe, she played her violin along with a track of Lady Gaga’s “Applause” to the delight of the dancing and cheering audience.

Photo by Caitlin Cunningham.

Singing along with Lady Gaga.  Photo by Caitlin Cunningham

Olivia joined a middle school chorus from Pope John Paul II’s Mattapan campus in a performance of Beyonce’s “Halo” and then led the entire audience in a round of vocal exercises.

Niu Niu shared how hard it was to move to the United States from China and then had jaws dropping as he played Chopin’s Revolutionary Etude.

Niu Niu commented that “Watching all these kids in schools laughing and screaming and their happy facial expressions when listening to the music was amazing.”

Photo by Caitlin Cunningham.

Photo by Caitlin Cunningham

Check out how some of the students got into the music here:

The day long residency was every bit a learning experience for our From the Top performers as it was for the students at Pope John Paul II Catholic Academy and provided a very real set of challenges and opportunities for their Arts Leadership Orientation Workshop.

“One of our main goals at our experience at PJPII was to inspire the students with music and share our love for it. I think all of us were really looking forward to seeing how they would react to our assemblies, and what they took away from the whole experience,” says Yuki. “However, something I took away from the outreach was confidence and to embrace spontaneity. When we got there, we were all forced to be somewhat spontaneous and throw ourselves out there like a pebble into a pond, and just watch the ripples forming. This applied to both the musical portion and the speaking portion as well. But with the energy of the kids and their enthusiasm, my hesitation and worries completely disappeared. So all in all, I think not only did the kids benefit from what we did, but we as performers benefited greatly as well. This was a very mutual experience, and something I will never forget.”

You can hear Chad, Lev, Yuki, Niu Niu, and Olivia in their From the Top radio episode the week of November 18.

From the Top performers with PJPII leaders.

From the Top performers with PJPII leaders.

Learn more about the Free for All Concert Fund.

Check out our photo gallery.

Alum Pays It Forward in Salinas, California

Eliodoro on From the Top in 2007.

Eliodoro on From the Top in 2007.

Six years after appearing on From the Top, 22-year-old alum Eliodoro Vallecillo is paying it forward in his hometown of Salinas, California. Through his own after-school music program and traditional Mexican band, he hopes to develop new audiences for Mexican music and offer new opportunities for kids in Salinas.

Eliodoro wowed audiences on both From the Top’s radio and television programs with his performance of Mozart’s Concert No. 3 in E-flat on French horn. But it was his story about how his passion for music helped him to escape gang violence in his hometown and grieve the loss of his brother that audiences most remember.

For Eliodoro, his From the Top experience was influential in other ways. As a recipient of From the Top’s Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award, he was able to purchase a new French horn, which he used as a music major at California State University at Long Beach. He also counts From the Top’s Arts Leadership Orientation Workshop as a moment of inspiration for him.

“I remember some classes at From the Top on how to be involved in our community and that always stood in the back of my mind. It was always a dream to give back. Music is something that’s very powerful. I’m glad that From the Top encourages that, because a lot of these kids need it. I’m grateful that they made me see that!”

Music  – both traditional Mexican and classical – was a large part of Eliodoro’s upbringing but unfortunately there weren’t many opportunities in his community for music instruction. “My brother and I went through a music program where we learned to play our instruments, after that there was nothing else in Salinas,” he says.

Eliodoro was inspired to create a way for kids in his hometown to continue their musical passions. He developed an after-school music program, Escuela de Musica Regional Mexicana, that introduces kids ages 7 to 17 to Mexican music. Jesse G. Sanchez Elementary School is the program’s main site, hosting over 100 students, while a secondary site at Salinas Public Library hosts just over 80 students. Students in the program focus on traditional Mexican music, such as the accordion, guitar, drums, bass guitar, tuba, trumpet, and bajo sexto, a traditional 12-stringed bass guitar.

“I would love the students to come back, teach, and stay involved.” He said, “It caught me off guard that all the students were very enthused, along with the parents, because it’s something that’s culturally relevant.”

Along with Escuela de Musica Regional Mexicana, Eliodoro’s band, Proyecto X, is also expanding audiences for Mexican music. He and his band members are all from Salinas, but have different musical backgrounds, which has helped to create the flavorful musical style of Proyecto X. Eliodoro performs accordion in the band, which has been featured on Spanish radio across the U.S. According to Eliodoro, “Radio stations have fallen in love with us,” and it is easy to see why.

Learn more about Escuela de Musica Regional Mexicana on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAiubWk-8hM&feature=youtu.be

Learn more about Proyecto X on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GRUPOPROYECTOX
or on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/GRUPOPROYECTOX?feature=watch

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!

Alum Nicholas King Gives Back!

Nicholas King is a Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award recipient who appeared on Show 177 in New Albany, Ohio, and the experience was life-changing. He says, “From the Top and the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation showed me the importance of supporting young musicians. Without the scholarship from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation I wouldn’t have been able to attend school. The performance on NPR allowed me a great performance opportunity, as well as chance to meet other talented musicians.”

After appearing on the show, Nicholas attended the Glenn Gould School at the renowned Royal Conservatory of Music where he received his performance diploma, along with the title of being the first freshman to ever win their Concerto Competition. Nicholas also received a standing ovation for his concert performance at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in July of 2010. Now, Nicholas is helping guide young performers along the same musical path with his own non-profit organization, Art of Giving Back.

In their own words, the volunteer artists at Art of Giving Back “share their time and talents to teach and mentor young musicians. We help them to develop their own talents and leadership skills which will last a lifetime.” Nicholas organized the program so that graduate level musicians could help instruct young aspiring performers to advance professionally. The program’s team of professional volunteers guides young artists in applying to professional music programs, setting up performances, and improving their skills.

Art of Giving Back

Art of Giving Back

The program offers free workshops that focus on practicing, performing, and applying to music schools. Nicholas explains that the workshops are “interactive and informative – we share our experiences with the class and answer any questions that they might have.” Art of Giving Back offers master classes to music middle and high schools. Nicholas and his fellow instructors also connect with young musicians through The Young Artist Forum online, where musicians can give and receive feedback to each other.

When we spoke with Nicholas about the future of the organization, he expressed his hope for it’s growth, saying “I would like this to become a world-wide organization. I believe that we offer a much needed service to musicians everywhere. No musician should feel like they’re alone.

To learn more about Nicholas and Art of Giving Back, visit their website at http://www.artofgivingback.org

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

Jieming Tang Pays it Forward with Music

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15 year-old violinist and Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Jieming Tang (Show 251) found a “second home” with the parishioners at Saint Colman Catholic Church in Cleveland, OH – their support was truly helpful during his transition to the United States. Jieming shares more below:

As newcomers to America from China, everything was new to us, and settling down and adapting to the totally new environment was very difficult in the first couple of years. We always got kind help from the parishioners when we were in need. For example, most of our furniture was given by them. When we were moving to a new apartment, many of them offered to drive their trucks for transporting, free of charge. Our bikes were stolen four times, and they always gave us bikes immediately afterwards. Everybody in the community was very kind and friendly to us, and we were so lucky to have all of them. They made us feel at home and involved, not feeling lonely and isolated like many newcomers do.

When Jieming heard about the church’s recent financial struggles, he wanted to find a way to give back to the community that had given him so much. He recorded a collection of beloved classics, such as “Ave Maria” and “Meditation from Thais,” and launched a CD sale in hopes of raising funds for the church. Over 900 copies of the CD were sold in just two weeks, raising over $1,000 for Saint Colman! The CD is still available for purchase on the church website.

Jieming AL Photo 1

We asked Jieming to share more about his experience…

FTT: What inspired you to record your own CD?

Jieming: Once after Mass, I had been chatting with Father Bob in jest, when he said since so many people enjoyed my music very much, maybe I could consider recording a CD. My eyes immediately lit up at the idea….St. Colman Church was facing capital shortages and had just begun a campaign to keep the church open. I had been thinking about doing something to give back to this community which had helped me in a big way, as well as to promote classical music. Why not record a CD for sale, with the proceeds donated to the Church’s capital campaign, to achieve these goals?

FTT: Who else was involved with this project?

Jieming: I (reached out to) Sister Mary Beth Gray, who is the music minister at the church, about this idea the next time I met her. She was very excited about this idea and was very supportive of it. We (decided to) make the recording in late Fall, so we would have enough time to prepare for it. The CD would then be ready in time for the Christmas season.

FTT: Walk us through the steps you had to take with this process…

Jieming: There were numerous things to consider: music selection, recording place and engineers, CD cover design, pianist/organist, mastering/post-production, duplication, marketing, etc. I made a list of 20 possible pieces and discussed with Sr. Mary Beth several times. Finally we narrowed it down to 12 pieces, which was a decent amount for a CD. The repertoire comprises mostly easy-listening classical music, with some religious music and technically complicated music.

After a lot of communication and coordination with the relevant parties, we finally settled the recording dates on November 16 and 17, which were the earliest available times of Kulas Hall. It is at Cleveland Institute of Music, and has excellent acoustics and an organ.

FTT: How did everything turn out?

Jieming: The 1,000 copies of CDs finally came out for sale on December 10 after months of hard work and hundreds of emails. We were all extremely excited about it. The sales were better than we had expected. Several hundred copies had been pre-ordered by the community and my schools. By Christmas Eve, more than 900 copies had been sold in just two weeks! I have received a lot of positive reviews from the buyers. Here is a note sent to me from one of them:

Jieming, I have been selling your CDs at my Beauty Salon and a client purchased 3 CDs yesterday after listening to your music. He left the Salon and returned shortly after with this gift [an exquisite Hohner harmonica] for you. He is also a musician. He said to have fun & enjoy!

FTT: What did you learn from this project? 

Jieming: I learned how to face challenges and overcome difficulties. I also realized how wonderful, loving, and helping others are, and how joyful it is to bring others music and to serve others. This project was one of the most challenging things in my life. Because of my heavy schoolwork and busy schedule at the Cleveland Institute of Music and Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra, finding time to practice the repertoire was always a struggle. Sometimes I felt overwhelmed and exhausted, but after the project was finally completed successfully, it was one of the happiest times of my life

Connecting with Peers through Music in Potsdam, NY

We love having the chance to meet with other young musicians whenever we’re on tour for a show. This past April brought us to Potsdam, NY, where we were able to meet with two groups of high school music students. Performers John Lee (cello) and Margaux Filet (flute) joined us for these events. We first visited a class of orchestra and choir students at Canton High School, then traveled to Potsdam High School to meet with a group of students in band and choir. Both groups had really wonderful questions to ask after each program, from “what keeps you motivated to practice?” to “how do you spend your downtime?”

Our performers’ music and stories made great connections with these two audiences. Margaux opened the program with the wonderful Fantaisie by Georges Hue, then gave them a “sneak peek” of the piece she would be playing on From the Top the next evening: George Enescu’s Cantabile. She spoke about her appearance on From the Top as being a “dream come true” for her musical aspirations, and how hobbies like exercise and spending quality time with her family helps her to keep balance. Next was John, who performed Bach’s Cello Suite No. 3 and ended the program with a dazzling “Sacher Variation” by Witold Lutoslawski. John shared that, when not performing or practicing, he loves to play frisbee and hang out with friends.

We asked our performers to share their thoughts on the experience, which you can check out in the video below:

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