Arts Leadership in St. Paul, MN

After every radio taping, the performers come together for the Arts Leadership Orientation to explore how they can use their talent and passion to make a difference in their communities and the world.

The performers on the St. Paul show named themselves the “Louisasota Zirths” – a play on the two states represented (10 performers from MN, 1 from LA) and the names of two inspiring teachers. They decided to choreograph their group photo and video around the piano, which was only fitting since it was a piano-themed show. Check out On the Road with Joanne Robinson for more info about the show.

The St. Paul Performers

Check out their group video:

Here are some of their thoughts about arts leadership, captured during a group writing exercise:

Arts Leadership is…

“Recognizing that music is a web that connects people together no matter how far apart they are. We may not be able to communicate our feelings through words, but two people from completely different parts of the world could walk away from a concert feeling the same way about it. I guess instead of saying music doesn’t have a language barrier, it would be better to say that it bridges the language barriers.

“I have organized concerts to raise money for building schools in Afghanistan. I have done this for six years and with the money raised, a school actually has been built in one of the most dangerous provinces of Afghanistan. So now the girls can feel safer and appreciated.”

“Our trio put (a benefit concert) together for Haiti – it was really fun, plus it felt great to contribute to people’s lives in such a big way.”

“Reaching out to kids who don’t have the same opportunities that we do and trying to do what we can to make those opportunities accessible to others. You can learn a lot about yourself through teaching and get better and better at working with kids.”

“Becoming involved in the community and inspiring people to appreciate the arts.”

“Taking a stand- supporting your ideas and dreams with action!”

The performers also created individual leadership maps, charting their past experiences, future dreams and the leadership qualities most important to them.

Be sure to tune in when their show airs the week of October 4th to hear more from these inspiring arts leaders!

On the Road with Joanne Robinson: Show 219 St. Paul, MN

I can’t believe we’re already kicking off our 11th season of radio shows, and what better way than a fantabulous piano extravaganza! We taped the first show of the season earlier this week at the Young Artist World Piano Festival on the beautiful campus of Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota.

It was an exciting show that featured practically everything the piano can do, from solo to chamber music to a piano duo to a bombastic finale with eight hands flying! Three From the Top alums were included in the festivities. There was 15-year-old Colton Peltier, who appeared this time around with the Aurailea Trio, along with violinist Nora Scheller, 17, and cellist Jocelyn Schendel, 18. The trio performed the first movement of Ravel’s Piano Trio in A minor beautifully

Also featured was Leeza Ali, 16, who previously appeared as a soloist on both our radio and TV programs and now performed as part of our show’s grand finale. Picture two grand pianos, with two pianists seated at each bench. Leeza Ali, 18-year-old Reed Tetzloff, 17-year-old Leo Wexler-Mann, and the great Christopher O’Riley himself performed Smetana’s Sonata in One Movement for Eight Hands in E minor. It was fascinating watching the four of them working through all the intricacies of the piece at music rehearsal.

We also reconnected with cellist John-Henry Crawford, 17, who was flown in to collaborate with 17-year-old pianist Kenny Broberg on a movement from Brahms Sonata No. 2 for Cello and Piano. It was hard to believe these two met and put together this piece just one day prior to taping!

We  met superstar sisters Cindy and Serena Lu, ages 14 and 12, who played the first movement of Mozart’s Sonata in D Major for Two Pianos and then showed off their other major skill, rhythmic gymnastics (which, if you’re not familiar, is acrobatic gymnastics done with props, such as hoops, ribbons and balls). These two are such talented gymnasts that they recently competed in the Junior Olympics! During the show, I managed to tape some footage of them demonstrating, which will go live on our website when the show airs, but until then, check out this YouTube clip of 12-year-old Serena in action.

We also met 9-year-old pianist William Yang (fondly nicknamed “Yangster the Gangster”), who, though rather quiet in person, is as expressive as can be when he plays piano. For your viewing pleasure, I flip-cammed Mr. Gangster rehearsing his piece, Chopin’s Scherzo No.1 in B minor, the night before the show. Don’t miss the part when the block of wood propping up his piano bench becomes unsteady and Chris O’Riley sneaks in to save the day, or the very end of the piece where William finishes with a dynamic flourish. I loved it!

Links we Like: The Good, the Bad, and the Funny

This week in Links we Like, we encounter a diverse group of events in music. From “the good” found in promoting music education, “the bad” in cheating the music industry, to “the funny” in charades, we see how music is a constant influence in our daily lives.

El Sistema Goes Global: El Sistema is truly an inspirational organization. The brainchild of José Antonio Abreu, the program has grown from a small project to a burgeoning network that provides 250,000 children access to music education, the majority of whom are from underprivileged households and communities. This summer marks the first successful year of its US-based initiative, located in Boston, MA at New England Conservatory. The Boston program, consisting of ten Abreu Fellows from all over North America, focused on many of the same objectives as its Venezuelan counterpart: spreading the contagious love of music making and advocating the importance of music in our children’s education. To read more about the Abreu Fellows and El Sistema, click here.

Jose Antonio Abreu with Students of El Sistema (courtesy of

A High Price Tag for Music Theft: Joel Tenenbaum’s, a graduate student at Boston University, entire life changed after (illegally) downloading 30 songs through a P2P file-sharing service. After a series of legal repercussions, Joel was set to owe $675,000 to four separate record labels affected by the misdemeanor. He began the campaign Joel Fights Back to promote his own defense and to protect “the average Davids against the corporate Goliath.” The fine was only recently lowered to $67,500 by a judge who claimed the original penalty “unconstitutionally excessive.” While it is a substantial reduction, it’s still a lofty fine for a mere 30 songs. Better to stick with iTunes or good old-fashioned CD purchases. To read more about the trial, click here.

(photo courtesy of

Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover: We’ve all heard of the Susan Boyle saga – a plain Jane-turned-superstar as a result of her performance on Britain’s Got Talent. Yet a local karaoke bar got their own “Susan Boyle” when an average saleswoman named Karen took the stage and sang hits by Grammy-nominated artist Jewel. The audience sat dumbfounded as an unexpected “jewel” of a voice emerged from the modestly-dressed performer. The catch? Karen was in fact the real Jewel, in disguise, as part of a special for the website Funny or Die. Click here to watch the whole charade unfold

(photo courtesy of

Unique Opportunity To Help Zimbabwe Student Music Group

From the Top alum William Harvey‘s musical organization, Cultures in Harmony, is hosting a student music group from Zimbabwe August 4-25, 2010 in New York City and Washington D.C.

Onias Horiwa and William Harvey, July 2006. Photo courtesy of Cultures in Harmony

Cultures in Harmony has worked with this group, comprised of leader Onias Horiwa, eight students, and one teacher  from Eaglesvale High School, in Zimbabwe in the past through two music projects: Sound of Water, Sound of Hope and Give Children Musical Instruments. Now William and his crew welcome these old friends to America.

Their trip will be filled with activities including “creative workshops at Culturarte, a picnic in New York’s Central Park with Cultures in Harmony volunteers, a performance featuring Onias Horiwa on mbira and Cultures in Harmony musicians in New York City, and workshops and other activities led by Dawn Smith and Ryan Murphy, Cultures in Harmony project participants who have been to Zimbabwe and now reside in Washington, DC.”

William writes, “From Zimbabwe to Papua New Guinea to Pakistan to Moldova, people with few resources other than their hospitality have generously welcomed American musicians into their homes during Cultures in Harmony projects over the past five years. Now is the US’s chance to return the favor!”

Where do YOU come in? William is looking for volunteers with a couch or extra bed who are willing to host a member of the group for all or some of their stay in New York or Washington.  Interested? Join Cultures in Harmony on Facebook and send a message to Deputy Director Sarah Frisof!

More information here.

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

Two Los Angeles Events For Nicholas King

In the beginning of June we updated you on From the Top alum Nicholas King.  This week we received more information about his summer plans to share with you.

You may remember that Nicholas mentioned throwing a private concert in July to fundraise so he can continue his studies at the world-renowned Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto – now we’ve got the details: On July 17 he will perform at the Evo Penthouse in Los Angeles, CA.  His event will include appetizers, dessert, and wine (courtesy of Truly Raw Gourmet, Tia’s Bakery, Chocovivo and Coconut Bliss) in addition to his performance. If you’re in the LA area, you should definitely check it out and help this alum stay on his musical track!  Tickets at the door are $30 each or $50 for two.

Image Courtesy of Susan von Seggern

At 3pm the very next day Nicholas will appear at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.  He’s the special guest performer at the Southeast Symphony Association’s season-ending celebration. This performance will include “American Salute” by Martin Gould, “Symphonic Dances” from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein, “Piano Concerto No. 2 Op. 18 in C minor” by Sergei Rachmaninoff,  and “Peter and the Wolf” by Sergei Prokofiev with a special guest celebrity narrator. Tickets are available through the Southeast Symphony Association or Ticketmaster.

Nicholas says, “I’m excited to play at Disney Hall, it’s an amazing venue! Plus doing the fundraising event in the sky above LA at the Evo will be a wonderful experience and help me further my studies. It will be a big weekend!” Check out his website for more information.

Good luck Nicholas!

2010-2011 Season Tour Dates

We are pleased to announce our 2010-2011 national tour dates for taping our popular NPR radio program hosted by acclaimed concert pianist Christopher O’Riley. The tour will include concert events at From the Top’s home base at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall and cities from Athens, GA to Yountville, CA and will mark From the Top’s eleventh season in public broadcasting.

What began as a radio experiment in 2000 quickly became one of the fastest growing and most popular weekly classical music programs on public radio. Broadcast on nearly 250 stations nationwide to an audience of more than 700,000 listeners each week, From the Top celebrates the amazing performances and captivating stories of America’s best pre-college classical musicians. We are proud to continue our work through the 2011 season!

2010-2011 From the Top’s NPR Radio Taping Schedule*

Tuesday July 13, 2010: St. Paul, Minnesota
Presented by Young Artist World Piano Festival

Tuesday, October 12, 2010: Davenport, Iowa
Presented by Orchestra Iowa as part of From the Top’s Iowa Residency, Iowa Makes Music

Sunday, October 24, 2010: Boston, Massachusetts
New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall

Tuesday, November 2, 2010: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Presented by LSU College of Music and Dramatic Arts

Tuesday, November 16, 2010: Abilene, Texas
Presented by KACU-FM

Friday, December 3, 2010: Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Presented by the Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University

Sunday, January 23, 2011: Yountville, California
Presented by the Lincoln Theater Napa Valley

Saturday, January 29, 2011: Boston, Massachusetts
New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall

Tuesday, February 8, 2011: Opelika, Alabama
Presented by the Arts Association of East Alabama

Sunday, February 27, 2011: Athens, GA
Presented by the University of Georgia Performing Arts Center

Wednesday, March 30, 2011: Cedar Falls, Iowa
Presented by Orchestra Iowa as part of From the Top’s Iowa Residency, Iowa Makes Music

Saturday, April 16, 2011: College Park, Maryland
Presented by the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland

Tuesday, April 26, 2011: Carmel, Indiana
Presented by The Palladium at The Center for the Performing Arts

Wednesday, May 4, 2011: Virginia Beach, Virginia
Presented by the Virginia Arts Festival at the Sandler Center.

Sunday, May 15, 2011: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Presented by KCSC-FM at the Rose State College Performing Arts Theatre

*Keep in mind the schedule is subject to change; you can always find the most up-to-date taping schedule on our website.


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