On the Road with Joanne Robinson: Show 216 Ames, Iowa

Hi everyone! We just got back from Iowa, where we taped a show at Iowa State University in Ames. One of the school’s most celebrated graduates was in our audience – the great American baritone Simon Estes! He introduced the first performer, 18-year-old violist Caroline Weeks, who played a beautiful piece by Rebecca Clarke.

Simon Estes and Elizabeth DeVore, From the Top's Production Manager

Next up was a local performer, 18-year-old oboist Bryanne Presley, who played Vaughan Williams and provided one of my favorite moments of the show. Her dad is also her band teacher and we had him join her onstage to talk about all the pranks she’s pulled on him over the years. Of course, we couldn’t resist encouraging him to get back at her on national radio, and he delivered with a karaoke serenade that made her squirm!

Our production manager Elizabeth grew up in Iowa, and it turned out that Bryanne’s dad was actually her first band teacher back when she was in middle school! When they reunited before the show, Elizabeth reminded him of why she chose to play trumpet – because he had convinced her that developing the muscles in her lips would make her a good kisser someday!

Next up on the show was 16-year-old Kong Qi, who is new to America having recently come across the world from China to study music at the Walnut Hill School in Massachusetts. He played the exciting first movement from Stravinsky’s Three Movements from Petrushka.

We were then joined by our 10th Anniversary Alumni special guest, conductor Keitaro Harada, who beautifully performed Astor Piazzola’s Adios Nonino on saxophone and discussed the road to becoming a conductor. I can still vividly remember his appearance on our show seven years ago, and it was thrilling to catch up with him again.

The show closed with Octet Abbraccio from Columbus, Ohio performing Mendelssohn’s Octet in E-flat, Op. 20. I loved this piece, and I was touched to see the group members in tears and hugging one another after the show. It turns out that several of them are graduating this year and this was their final performance together. What an honor to be able to share the moment with them!

We captured their wonderful performance in its entirety (including a bit of the aftermath) on video. They really exemplify the special bond that playing music together creates.

7 Responses

  1. Smiles, hugs, tears…add some sweat to that all, too, and you have chamber music!
    Thanks, FtT!

  2. This was a phenomenal show in Ames. Octet Abbraccio was so impressive in many ways. I have taught solo and chamber music. Getting a group of teenagers to work together is challenging enough. Getting a chamber group to work together so flawlessly is a feat in itself. It was like watching a three ring circus. I would watch one person and then be drawn to another, only to realize I had just missed seeing a technical flourish from another member of the group. Bravo!!

  3. What may be difficult for many to imagine is that The Chamber Music Connection makes inspiring student performances like this one an everyday occurrence around Columbus, Ohio. Thanks, Debbie, and thanks, Octet Abbraccio!

  4. Big hugs to Octet Abbraccio! Phenomenal performance! Played not only with amazing energy, but tremendous beauty!! Bravissimo! Many thanks to Debbie for her amazing Chamber Music Connection!

  5. thanks again for having us on the show! it was such an incredible experience!

  6. […] Simon attended our From the Top Show #216 in Ames, Iowa this spring, where he met violist and From the Top alum Caroline Weeks. He ultimately ended up inviting Caroline to join him to perform at several concerts on his tour this December! Stay tuned, as we’ll post more information about those concerts as we get it. […]

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