From the Top at Blue Oak School in Yountville

The day after we taped Show #225 in Yountville, California, the From the Top Education Team visited the beautiful Blue Oak School with performer and clarinetist Perry Choi. The team spent time with 35 third to fifth graders who take music from teacher Kim Markovich.

Perry teaching about the clarinet

Despite being only 18 years old, Perry runs a non-profit organization called Keeping Music Alive that provides lessons and instruments to elementary school students free of charge. Perry’s Arts Leadership mission is to share his passion for music with children who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford lessons.

For the presentation at Blue Oak, Perry performed a variety of pieces, including excerpts from Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A Major to the Pink Panther. He then spoke about the clarinet and how it works to make music, engaging his audience through demonstrations and sound. Perry also shared more about Keeping Music Alive and the importance of using music to make a difference in your community.

The audience was extremely attentive throughout the presentation, and had excellent questions and observations to share with Perry at the end.

One third grader later said about the performance: “I was so inspired by his playing that I have decided I want to play the French horn and am saving up for an instrument.”

As the school’s main music teacher, Kim Markovich couldn’t have been happier: “It was such a pleasure to hear Perry talk. In debriefing with the students, I was gratified that they heard and recognized the nuances of Perry’s playing. First hand experiences of such amazing music making from an ‘almost contemporary’ are rare and such a privilege for our students.”

Perry performing for the kids

Perry was also really excited about the visit: “I wanted to stay there much longer! The kids were attentive, the environment inviting, and the experience fulfilling…I wish them all the best and hope to see them again sometime.”

Be sure to read more about the show on our website (show airs February 7), and check out Perry’s Keeping Music Alive here.

From the Top Inspires an Abilene Elementary School Radio Project

Yesterday we recorded an episode of From the Top in Abilene, Texas, which will air the week of December 27. Our presence in the town actually inspired 2nd and 4th grade classes at Allie Ward Elementary School to put on their own radio project! You can listen to the podcast about this production by Zane Goggans from KACU here.

This semester Cynthia Ladyman’s 2nd grade class was focused on 1940’s history and culture – World War II, clothing, speech, and classical music. She thought a radio production like From the Top would be a fun and creative way to bring all of this learning together. Each member of her class was given a specific role to play – writers, reporters, production team, actors, etc, and along with the help of a 4th grade class, these kids put on a special radio project that included three talent groups from the school, a choir, vignettes, and a commercial for the school’s library.

In order to prepare, these students visited the KACU radio studios (the From the Top presenter in Abilene) to see how radio works in real life.

Ms. Ladyman says, “It came up that [the school board] didn’t think second graders could do this, but I said yes we can, and so we have worked very hard to do that!”

This project is a great example of how classical music and radio can be interesting to kids of all ages. “I think kids value what the teachers and parents value, and I think they need to be exposed early [to classical music],” Ms. Ladyman said in an interview with KACU.

This hands-on production was a challenge for the kids because it was so writing intensive and involved a lot of preparation, but as you can hear in the podcast, they seemed to really enjoy it!

Isabella Markham Brings Senior Citizens a “Bellapalooza” of Music

Bella with Fellow Performers at the El Dorado Retirement Center

We love when From the Top performers take Arts Leadership to the next level – 14 year-old violist Isabella Markham, a Jack Kent Cook Young Artist, has done just that by organizing a small concert series for a retirement center with the help of her brother and seven friends.  She titled the performance “Bella Palooza” and it took place on March 7, 2010 at the El Dorado; an independent retirement home located in Richardson, TX. The program included works for cello, violin, viola, and piano. Bella chose this project to provide seniors a fun break from their daily routine. Through the performance, Bella hoped to show that musicians her age still care for elderly people, and that music is a universal form of communication. A talented artist as well as a musician, Bella also created beautiful, hand-drawn flyers to promote the event.

Bella's Concert Program Art

Bella on "From the Top"

“I strongly believe that our culture tends to forget about the elderly and aging. A lot of these people are lonely and they don’t get enough love. Everyone needs someone to look forward to, and I think music makes a person’s heart happy.”

-Bella Markham Continue reading

Painting the Future for Musical Diplomacy

We have been avidly following the progress of Musical Diplomacy, the brainchild of From the Top’s Margaret Stewart Lindsay Arts Leadership Grant recipients Brian Kaufman and Michael Reichman. After an entire year of planning and organizing, their dream of using music to bring together leading policymakers, teachers, musicians, and concerned citizens was finally realized at the Fenway Center Auditorium on May 14. The event demonstrated both musical excellence and creative design, and was very well-received. We sat down with the two after the performance to reflect on the memories and values gleaned from their yearlong journey.

Brian after conducting Bernstein's "Symphonic Dances from West Side Story" (photo courtesy of Jesse Weiner)

From the Top: What have you learned during the course of developing Musical Diplomacy?

Brian: We learned a tremendous amount. We learned about what we’re capable of as artists, as individuals, what we have the ability to do if we put our mind to it. We learned a lot about how to put something together, how to organize things, and how to get a community excited about something. The whole thing was challenging—there was no part of it that was a walk in the park! There was constant negotiating, adjusting, and modifying original plans. To do something like this, you have to be really flexible. Continue reading

Alum Sahun Hong Continues His Arts Leadership

Arts Leadership is an important part of From the Top’s experience for young musicians. We encourage all our performers to give back to their communities through their music. Sahun “Sam” Hong who performed on Show #206 in Dallas, Texas, has been doing Arts Leadership outreach continually since his show taped in November, 2009.  He’s setting a great example! On June 22, 2010 Sam will play a recital in Longhorn Auditorium at Trinity Terrace for all of the residents.

Here’s a quick photo recap of his work since November:

On December 1, 2009, Sam performed for all of the fifth grade students at Tanglewood Elementary School in Fort Worth.

Sam performing between showings of the award-winning documentary of the 2009 Cliburn Competition, "A Surprise in Texas

Sam and Van Cliburn at "A Surprise in Texas" showing

Sam performing at Trinity Terrace Retirement Home in Fort Worth. He visits the residents once a week to play solo piano, accompany them singing, and do some magic tricks. This is on the second floor for residents who are unable to get out.

Sam performs for elementary students at The Cambridge School in San Diego on June 3, 2010.

DBR’s Work with Boston Schools

We just got a neat update from composer Daniel Bernard Roumain (aka DBR).  A few weeks ago we featured a blog he wrote on Musical Diplomacy and Good, Long Hugs.  These days he’s been collaborating with the Boston Pops to work with young musicians in Boston area schools.  Check out this video for an overview of his educational philosophy (and some really cool uses of the violin).

Giving Back Through Music in Iowa – Part I

For the past two years, From the Top and Orchestra Iowa have collaborated on a project called Iowa Makes Music. One component of this residency is our Arts Leadership program, which provides high school age classical musicians with intensive arts leadership training and one-on-one mentoring to help them develop and lead their own music-inspired service projects in their home communities.  We are so impressed with the hard work that our participants have put into their projects. Here’s just one example:

Thomas Burrill, Freshman

When you hear the words “Alzheimer’s Benefit Concert,” you wouldn’t normally think of two high schoolers.  But this year Thomas Burrill (who’s father died over a year ago of the disease) and his friend Linda Xiong have been toiling over an intense project – producing a classical music concert and raising $5,000 for the University of Iowa’s Alzheimer’s research.

This dynamic duo teamed up a couple of months ago and charged full speed ahead with creating an exciting concert and raising $$$.  First order of business? They got the Englert Theater (where From the Top taped a show!) to donate space for the concert.  With one win in the bag, Thomas and Linda set out to create marketing materials, find sponsors, and raise money.

Linda Xiong, Sophomore

The final results? Over 130 concert attendees, 16 sponsors, and $5300 in donations – they surpassed their goal!  One concert-goer came up to Thomas after the show and thanked him for setting an example for “all the folks, young and old, in Iowa”

Linda posted some great clips from the concert and you can read more about how they made this project a success on the Iowa Makes Music blog.

Check back later to hear about some more projects from Iowa youth musicians!

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