In March, From the Top joined forces with Portland Ovations to tape a radio show at Merrill Auditorium (broadcasting this week), but that was just one part of our fabulous experience in Portland, Maine…
Sharing the power and excitement of the arts with a broader community, especially students who might not otherwise have access, is central to the mission of both organizations. Thanks to the passionate and tireless work of Barri Lynn Moreau, Director of Education and Outreach at Portland Ovations, we had a wonderful opportunity to connect with LearningWorks, a Portland-based non-profit that serves young children, at-risk youth, the immigrant community and low-income families.
Roughly twenty students from the LearningWorks alternative high school program attended the dress rehearsal on the afternoon of our taping. The students got to witness all that goes into to putting our radio show together — from the sound crew adjusting microphones and recording equipment, to the spirited and comical antics of our production crew, to the performers’ first time playing on stage and practicing their interviews with Christopher O’Riley — it was a real behind-the-scenes experience!
The group entered just in time to catch the Trumpet Trio and percussion players from Portland Youth Symphony Orchestra rehearsing their lively rendition of Chiapanecas, a Mexican folk dance. And when 14-year-old Clark Pang took the stage and launched into a virtuosic performance of the Barber Cello Sonata, Op. 6, eyes widened.
Equally impressive were the simultaneous headset conversations between our production and sound crew, extended instrument tuning, and the complex choreography of people and events needed to bring our radio show to life!
The students weren’t able to stay for the entire rehearsal, but overall, it seemed to make an impression. While gathered in the lobby before returning to LearningWorks, several of them were debating the ages of the musicians they had seen and were disappointed they weren’t able to stay long enough to hear the harpist (and see that fascinating instrument).
The next afternoon, after a spectacular From the Top taping the night before, we visited the students on their turf to introduce them to two local violinists on the show — Josie and Sophie Davis (aka the Davis Duo) from Waldoboro, ME. The same students who attended the rehearsal, plus a few new members and staff gathered in an open room in the LearningWorks building to meet Sophie and Josie, hear some music and share their thoughts and questions about the whole experience.
After introducing themselves, Sophie and Josie opened with the lively first movement of the Bach Double Concerto (they performed the Largo on the show). The students were definitely impressed — one young man exclaimed “that was awesome!” When another student asked about how they’re able to read all of those notes, Sophie and Josie passed their music around, so that everyone could get a closer look. One of the young women noticed that the music looked really similar to her own flute scores — we found out there were several musicians in the group.
The students had tons of thoughtful, interesting questions, many of which really made the sisters stop and think. Sophie and Josie in turn were equally relaxed and open, sharing what it’s like to work together as siblings (hint- they can say exactly what they think), the challenges they’ve faced and how playing music just makes them feel happy and alive.
“This was perhaps the most rewarding concert I have played in a long time. The students were so engaged and asked questions and brought up points about music and the violin that I had never considered.” – Josie Davis
“Playing at Learning Works was an extremely amazing and rewarding experience. I learned so much about what music can mean to different people, and I was surprised and inspired by how much interest they showed in the violins and music. The questions they asked brought me a fresh, new perspective on the music… I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to play there (at Learning Works).” – Sophie Davis
Thanks so much to Barri Lynn Moreau and all of our friends at LearningWorks and Portland Ovations for making this event possible and for making our time in Portland so special!