From the Top’s broadcast for Show 251 was taped in Hosmer Concert Hall at Crane School of Music-SUNY Potsdam on Saturday, April 21, 2012. We asked our performers to tell us about the music they performed on the show:
John Lee, cello, 17
Dance of the Green Devil
By: Gaspar Cassado
I knew what a devil was, and I knew what a red devil was, but a green devil? Not so much. After scouring through pages about green devil tattoos, green devil designs and the boss in the MegaMan game series, I gave up my search
and decided that the green-ness described the devil’s playfulness and quirky nature. But I was not satisfied, so I headed back to Google and finally hit the jackpot: the devil wears green, just as hunter wear camouflage, to hide among men and capture their souls. Indeed, Cassado captures this wily nature of the green devil: quick, tricky, and hard to find on Google.
For me, the most difficult task was also the most enjoyable one: delivering a portrayal of the green devil. From the tip-toeing of the bow to the blood-boiling runs to the shockingly celestial glissandos, the piece itself provides a framework of the devil. However, the artist has the job of coloring that framework green and filling the piece with the emotion of the devil itself.
Post Show Reflection: My favorite memory was definitely the interview with Chris on stage – I’ve never felt so refreshed and excited to speak to an audience. The performance was a wonderful experience for me, both as a musician and a person. Being onstage was so exciting and I would do almost anything to relive that moment.
I believe that music has the ability to reach into the hearts and minds of people as human and create another world in which we can flourish and there.
Avery Gagliano, piano, 10
“The Cat and the Mouse”
By: Aaron Copland
I think Aaron Copland’s “The Cat and the Mouse” is very energetic, fun, and exciting. When I play this piece, I tell the story of “The Cat and the Mouse” and picture in my mind an exaggerated cartoon. The music makes me think about the cartoon Tom and Jerry: I see images of cats pouncing, mice skittering, and everybody going around and around. The story behind this piece of music is about a cat and a mouse that always fight: from dawn to dusk they bicker until one day, the cat retires for the day and lounges around admiring himself, feeling all confident and superior. All of a sudden, the mouse takes advantage of the moment thinking that he might be able to get a snack or do something exciting. Then, the cat follows and begins to chase the mouse again. In the end, the cat and the mouse move on to live new lives in separate places, but there is still a little bit of their energy and excitement left in the old house they used to live in, which is represented by a little tinkering in the last few notes.
Since the music of “The Cat and the Mouse” is so wild and creative, I can experiment a lot with it. It is full of false harmonies (meaning harmonies that don’t really sound harmonic), and many other interesting things you can observe in the music. For example, there is sometimes a moment when everything begins to speed up and then all of a sudden, it slows down again and hushes up. Things like this make me love “The Cat and the Mouse” and I think it is a great piece to play.
I also find “The Cat and Mouse” extremely catchy. I am attracted to it partially because it reflects my own character. I usually find all pieces easy to communicate with but this piece caught my attention immediately. For me, the most important thing to do in order to play well is to tell a story through the music, and to bring out all the juice inside of it. Other pieces I have played besides “The Cat and the Mouse” take a longer time for me to find and unravel their stories. This piece has a story that comes naturally and quickly. It isn’t very melodic and singable, unlike most pieces that are composed for dance, singing, etc. Instead, “The Cat and the Mouse” is straightforward, telling the story right away; this is why it is so special and unique to me.
Post Show Reflection:
Over-all, I had an amazing experience participating on From The Top. My favorite moments were the pizza party on Friday (it was awesome!) and being on the show. The actual performance was simply amazing! I felt comfortable and quite relaxed. Before going onstage, I was nervous, but when I walked onto the stage to perform, I felt mentally prepared in a way I’ve never felt before. Everything was so enjoyable.
I believe that music has the power to do anything. It changes so many people’s lives and is completely unpredictable. I believe that depending on the situations, music is capable of doing so many different and wonderful things. One other thing that I cannot forget about music is that besides changing my life, it has brought to me new joy and inspiration that has made my life more valuable. This is why I am thankful and grateful for the gift of music.
Margaux Filet, flute, 18
By: George Enescu
The Cantabile is serene and graceful. When I listen to this piece, I think of a person walking through a garden in the springtime, marveling at the gorgeous array of flowers and taking in the beautiful scenery. The person at this point in time doesn’t have a care in the world.
I remember one night after coming home late from an orchestra rehearsal, my mother told me that she found a really great YouTube video of Ron Paul playing the Cantabile by Georges Enescu. I thought that was kind of strange and intriguing that a presidential candidate played the flute. When I looked at her inquisitively, she was puzzled and asked what was so odd about Ron Paul playing the flute. After a minute or so I asked if she meant Rampal, as in Jean-Pierre Rampal. It turns out that the YouTube video was of Jean-Pierre Rampal playing Cantabile. We both had a good laugh when we realized the error in communication. Just out of curiosity, we checked online to see Ron Paul plays an instrument: it doesn’t appear that the flute or any other instruments are fundamental to the success of his campaign strategy.
The most difficult aspect of this piece is making the phrase lines long, smooth and graceful. It is very easy to accent the unimportant notes. I find that singing my part has really helped me understand musically how to convey the beauty of the piece to my audience. Sometimes I even sing and play the flute at the same time; I find that helps focus my sound.
Post Show Reflection: The outreach at the high schools was a favorite memory for me! I enjoyed talking to the students about music and sharing several pieces with them. They seemed to be really engaged with the entire presentation. The show was definitely the highlight out of the three-day experience. I was definitely a little nervous but mostly excited to perform for everyone and to share my story. Mr. O’ Riley made me feel more at ease with his enthusiastic personality. It was quite an experience to walk out on stage with all of the recording equipment and to see a full house. I enjoyed every moment of the show and I will cherish this phenomenal performance opportunity forever!
This show reinforced the idea that music can help others feel better about themselves and the world around them. Music makes us aware of what is important in life and helps makes us better citizens. I believe Plato, aptly describes the power of music when he says, “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.”
Quartet Al Dente
I. Allegro Rustico from String Quartet No.2, op. 26
By: Alberto Ginastera
Ade Williams, violin, 14
I love the Ginastera! I love how it’s so intense. To me it sounds sort of like a rock song combined with a really uncertain, anticipating melody. I think the story of this piece is a horror movie because the chords are chaotic and remind me of Shostakovich.
This is the first modern string quartet I’ve ever played! The first time I heard this piece was last year on tour with the Sphinx Virtuosi, and I immediately wanted to play it. The hardest part of this piece is playing together. Usually we’re divided two and two with rhythm, with one group being just one eighth note off from the other; so if you find yourself together with other group, then it’s very likely to fall apart.
Post Show Reflection: I loved performing in front of the live audience and having to take three bows because they liked it so much! It was an amazing feeling! I’ve never performed in front of a live audience and get recorded at the same time. I loved it. It was also the first time performing the Ginastera!
I believe music has the power to make you happy, sad, in love, angry, etc. I believe that it can heal you emotionally and physically.
Claire Bourg, violin, 17
This piece is extremely intense right off the bat. The rhythm is very catchy and small changes that occur every once and a while can throw everyone off sometimes! When I am playing it, I sometimes feel like I am hurting my violin, because it is so loud and powerful! Because everything moves so quickly, I think about being in a car that is going so fast the images outside the windows are a blur!
This is such a unique and rustic piece. It is relentless and requires such teamwork to play, because the four of us are in unison a lot. While there is a clear theme, I am used to playing pieces with some sort of melodic theme, but this piece is just crazy! There is one rhythmic section where the violins’ are opposite along with viola and cello, and it is nearly impossible to nail! We had to practice four measures like 600 times!
Post Show Reflection: Performing on the show was my favorite memory, in front of a live audience. It was so much fun just playing music and having such a responsive audience that got into it! Surprisingly, my nerves went away on stage and it was just all about playing music and having a great time. At times, it was nice to look out into the audience and see people really having a good experience listening.
I believe music has the power to bring the entire world together. It is such a strong thing that brings all different types of people together.
Caitlin Adamson, viola, 16
I love the intensity in this music. Even though the piece keeps you on your toes the entire time, it has unparalleled intensity that is unlike any lyrical melodies. In order to create the intense feeling that Ginastera conveys, he uses pairings of instruments and plays them off of one another resulting in a very complex musical experience.
This piece has a more rhythmic feel similar Smetana. While there are slower more lyrical passages, most of the piece is percussive and groove. It is almost impossible to count in the Ginastera because it just makes it more complicated. You really have to get the feeling for it.
Post Show Reflection: The performance was definitely the favorite memory for me; hearing the audience laugh at what we said was so rewarding. I felt like what we said really connected to them. Performing on that stage was incredibly comfortable. The audience was so alive and we fed off of their fantastic energy.
Music has the power to change people. It can help make the world a better place to just be you. Music is all about free expression and putting yourself out there in your most natural form.
Tara Safavi, cello, 16
This piece in very rustic and quite different than anything I’ve ever played before. There’s nothing elegant or polished about it, but that’s what makes it fun to play. It’s “fast-stomping” music – when I listen to it or play it, I image Argentinean cowboys (Gauchos) riding their horses across the plains of South America. The moods in this piece alternate between violent and calm, which to me evokes a storm with brief interludes of quiet between thunderclaps.
This piece is especially difficult rhythmically because we all have to stay together as a quartet, and yet play different rhythmic figures correctly. For example, in one section I am counting in groups of 4 while the others are counting in groups of three, and we have to simultaneously pay attention to our group mates but not play the same rhythm as each other. It can get really confusing, but when it all fits together it’s really rewarding!
Post Show Reflection: Playing on stage in the live recording was definitely the highlight of my weekend. The audience was great and I was incredibly proud of the group for all of our hard work. The interview with Christopher O’Riley was a lot of fun too because we got to describe the Ginastera as “relentless rock music”. Knowing that we made other people happy makes me happy. The audience gave us such great energy, and we completely reacted off of that energy. We gave it our all and really enjoyed every second of it. I don’t think any of us were nervous – we were having way too much fun. By the time the piece was over, I think we were all physically exhausted. We also lost quite a few bow hairs in the process!
Music has the power to alter one’s perception of the world. When you are first introduced to music, you are introduced to a whole different way of life. Music is a really powerful form of expression; it is often said that music takes over where words fail. That is how I can view music’s power.
Jieming Tang, violin, 14
Melodie, Op 42, No. 3
By: Peter IIyich Tchaikovsky
Tchaikovsky’s Melodie is one of my most favorite pieces. It sings of sweet remembrance. This piece comprises of three sections. My favorite parts are the first and third sections which feature the beautiful violin melodies stretching out in dreaminess. The third section is more passionate and diverse with a sentimental conclusion. I enjoy playing it very much. Every time I play this touching piece, I can feel a warm current flowing through my whole body.
This is a short piece of music, but it contains so many dramatic points which offer a great deal of room for the performer’s own creative interpretation and expression. I think this is what makes this piece very special. It is full of diversity and smoothness throughout the whole piece which make playing it a very natural enjoyment. I think smoothness is the most important and the hardest thing for me to go for.
Post Show Reflection: The actual concert was fun and exciting. I kept reminding myself to present my best music to the audience when I was on the stage, but I still was a little nervous. A favorite moment for me was when we partied after the show.
Music can purify people’s souls.
The Houston Youth Symphony
Greetings everyone! The whirlwind spring tour of 2012 continues with our most recent taping in Houston, Texas. We taped at the Wortham Center, the gigantic home of the Houston Ballet and Houston Grand Opera, and our show included plenty of outstanding Houston talent. The audience was packed, and, as a result of the Houston Public Radio’s fundraising drive’s From the Top Day, almost 200 Project GRAD students were able to attend our taping for free!
Kicking off the festivities was the Houston Youth Symphony, 82 members strong, performing Beethoven’s “Leonore” Overture No. 3. After they played, a few of the orchestra members were interviewed about inter-orchestra romance. One of the teenage members shared that he was a student ambassador for the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, which works to ensure that gay students are not bullied, and it was heartening to see his orchestra colleagues and the audience applaud in support.
Later in the show, a fantastic 18-year-old baritone, Aaron Bigeleisen, sang Schubert and spoke about founding a Glee Club – although in this case, “GLEE” is a clever acronym for “Gun Lovers and Environmental Enthusiasts!” The audience got a kick out of that, and it struck me that here on From the Top we meet kids of all ages and backgrounds with all sorts of different viewpoints, who bond through their shared love of music and also tend to find a lot of common ground with each other. Now if only the rest of the world could work like that!
As always, for your viewing pleasure, enjoy this Sneak Peek of the upcoming broadcast, and make sure to tune in when this show airs in September.
Calling all Chicago fans! This Friday, violinist Kelly Talim (Show #246) and her brother Kai will be co-hosting the “Walk with Children 2012″ benefit concert to help the Japanese children who were orphaned by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. They created the following video announcement (with Kai speaking) to spread the word:
Kelly and Kai will be joined by current students, alumni, and friends of the Academy at the Music Institute of Chicago, a number of whom are From the Top alumni: violinist Clayton Penrose-Whitmore (Show #191), pianist Kate Liu (Show #238), performers of Quartet Al Dente (Show #251), cellist Mariel Werner (Show #167), cellist Ben Fried (Show #200), and cellist Alexander Hersh (Show #209).
The performance will take place this Friday at 7:30pm in the Nichols Concert Hall. “Walk with Children” T-shirts will be for sale to help support the cause, in addition to ticket sales and donations. They hosted a similar event last year, and managed to raise $2,000 towards the cause! Kelly shares her hopes for this year’s event:
“As our second benefit concert, we hope to gather more people and increase awareness of the ongoing recovery of Japan. As long as schools are rebuilding and children live in devastation, we need to continue supporting the orphaned children.”
How can you help? Visit their website to learn more about the event, or visit the Facebook page to join the discussion.
Spring is a notoriously busy time here in From the Top land, but this spring has been, without a doubt, the extra-crazy-busiest! In the last few weeks we’ve crisscrossed the country from northern New York to sunny Tennessee to way out west in Oregon, all the while as we prepared for our annual gala which took place last week in Boston. Needless to say, I am a wee bit behind on my blogging, so without further ado I present to you… “On the Road with Joanne Robinson: Triple Feature!”
Host Christopher O’Riley gives pianist Avery Gagliano pointers on her piece “Cat and Mouse”
Our extra special triple feature starts way up north almost on the border of Canada in the quaint university town of Potsdam, New York, where we taped a show at the Crane School of Music. It was a terrific show, full of incredible performances and stories and a true diversity of kids who really seemed to have a great time. I loved watching two of our performers – 10-year-old pianist Avery Gagliano and 18-year-old flutist Margaux Filet – playing the hand game “slide” backstage. I also got a kick out of the fact that performer Jieming Tang played an 18th century Gagliano violin, which meant that a 10-year-old Gagliano (Avery) and a nearly 300-year-old Gagliano shared the same stage!
The drive home from Potsdam to Boston was gorgeous; we found ourselves in a winter wonderland. As we wound around Lake Champlain and down through Vermont, I kept my flipcam out and at the ready, hoping for a “Champ” sighting (Champ is the mythical sea monster who allegedly makes his home in Lake Champlain). Alas, all I captured were rocks and sticks.
A mere four days later the From the Top crew landed in hot and sunny Chattanooga, Tennessee for a taping at the Tivoli Theatre. I just loved the Tivoli, and the people in Chattanooga were the epitome of Southern hospitality. The show featured two local performers – 16-year-old vocalist Thomas West and 17-year-old trumpeter John Burton – and there was enormous audience support for them. Something cool that didn’t make it onto the show is the fact that John Burton isn’t only an outstanding musician, he also happens to be an incredible juggler. He showed off some of his juggling tricks backstage, and I caught some of it on flipcam for you (check out “Sneak Peek Show 252″ below)!
Now on to Portland, Oregon! Portland is such a vibrant city, known for its forward-thinking people and great arts scene, but what I think I appreciated most of all was the abundance of great local coffee shops. We taped at the gorgeous Newmark Theatre to a full house. We were thrilled to once again feature violinist Simone Porter, now 15, who was on our show originally back when she was 11, and an incredible musician even then. When the show goes live we’ll be posting a video of Simone “through the ages” so make sure to look out for that! This taping had many great moments, but I especially loved the finale, which featured two piano-playing sisters performing Percy Grainger’s Fantasy on George Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess for Two Pianos. An exhilarating end to a whirlwind tour.
And now for your viewing pleasure, I have three, count ‘em three, video sneak peeks for you! Enjoy – and I’ll be in touch next week to tell you all about our Houston taping.
This May, two of our very own alums will be featured on HBO with critically acclaimed soprano Renée Fleming!
Mezzo soprano Samantha Hankey (a Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist from Show #226 in Boston) and baritone Sean Plum (Show #201 in Boston) will be featured in HBO’s “Renée Fleming: a YoungArts MasterClass,” revealing the ambition of four singers as Renée herself guides them. The show will air on May 28 at 6 p.m.
The first MasterClass Series featured artists such as Placido Domingo, Edward Albee, and more.
Like the other students, Samantha and Sean are both graduates of the YoungArts program in Miami. Samantha is continuing school at the Juilliard School and Sean is at the Curtis Institute of Music.
Congratulations to Samantha and Sean and be sure to tune in to HBO!
This month, 14-year-old pianist Marie Kelly debuted at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall! Marie performed after winning first place in the American Protege International Piano and Strings Competition.
Marie performing at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall on April 8. Photo courtesy of Marie Kelly.
This spring, Marie was also chosen to perform in the 59th Junior Bach Festival, which features concerts in March and April around Bach’s birthday.
Just one month after performing on Show #225 in Yountville, California, she won first place in the California Association of Professional Music Teachers’ Bartok and Contemporary Music Festival.
Congratulations to Marie on reaching such an important venue!
Renowned classical guitarist Chaconne Klaverenga premiered the Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra by Rene Schiffer earlier this month, a performance the Lafayette Symphony Orchestra commissioned for her.
Chaconne most recently performed a piece set for her in a sold-out concert with the Lafayette Symphony. Photo courtesy of ChaconneKlaverenga.com.
Klaverenga, who appeared on Show #194 in Buffalo, New York at age 16, received the piece as a gift from Mr. Schiffer (a member of Cleveland Baroque Orchestra’s ensemble Apollo’s Fire) and performed for over 1,000 people in a sold-out concert.
Since performing on From the Top in 2009, Klaverenga has also been featured in American Public Radio’s Performance Today, honored by the Indiana State House of Representatives, and named first-place winner in numerous competitions.
She has also performed numerous solo concerts across her home state of Indiana, including a performance in the Purdue Convocations Discovery Concert Series.
We’re happy to hear Chaconne is doing so well as she studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music!
A lot of wonderful things have been happening for pianist Michael Davidman, who performed on Show 234 in Virginia Beach, Virginia last year!
Alum Michael Davidman will perform with the Yonkers Philharmonic in May. Photo courtesy of Charles Davidman.
Michael recently took first place in the Fine Arts Orchestral Society of Yonkers’ Concerto Competition. As a result, he will be performing in a concert on May 19 featuring the Yonkers Philharmonic, conductor James Sadewhite, and WQXR’s Robert Sherman (for more info on the free concert, click here).
Michael also just received a Music Career Grant from the Joyce Dutka Arts Foundation, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center selected his high school chamber group to perform in Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall at the 29th Annual Young Musicians Concert.
He was hired last month to perform in a Classical Pianists of the Future recital (Michael’s performance is the “sample piece of the month” on their website).
Michael is still studying in the Precollege Division of the Manhattan School of Music and at Hunter College High School.
We hope he doesn’t stop raking in wonderful experience performing in competitions, chamber ensembles, and solo recitals!
“(This event) made me realize what kids can accomplish when given the necessary support from role models in their community. I feel honored to have had the opportunity to enrich the lives of…youth in my own community.”
Bassoonist Sandra Bailey understands the value of outlining goals to help achieve one’s dreams. Wanting to share this message with younger students in her hometown, she visited a 6th and 7th grade music class at the Atlanta Preparatory Academy, where her younger sister is a student.
After challenging the students to write down their goals, Sandra talked about the steps she took to make her own dreams become a reality, from getting her first bassoon, to appearing on From the Top and being selected as a Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist (she was on Show #232 and will be part of our upcoming gala!).
Sandra dazzled the students with a range of musical selections, from Bolero to the SpongeBob theme, and encouraged them to explore their own musical potential. She created a special pamphlet with musical opportunities in Atlanta for the students to take home and share with their parents.
We asked Sandra to share more about her experience:
FTT: Was there a memorable moment?
Sandra: After explaining the orchestral music that sometimes plays behind cartoons, I played a bassoon excerpt that occasionally plays on SpongeBob – it was enlightening to see how captured they were after I played it.
FTT: What do you think the students took away from your presentation?
Sandra: I believe they left inspired knowing that their goals are possible, and that they have many opportunities right in their hometown.
FTT: What did you take away from this experience?
Sandra: I learned about how children can be unaware of the many things they can accomplish. It made me remember the many things I had been unaware of at their age, like future careers and goal setting. I also became aware of the parental encouragement that is needed (another reason for sending home the pamphlets). There were moments where I had to change the order of my program, just to captivate the audience a little more.
FTT: What does being an arts leader mean to you?
Sandra: Being an arts leader is a very unique title. You have to be aware of the many different music opportunities and have the passion to express it to someone who is unaware of the subject. Above all you have to be willing to express your passion to anyone in any situation because we can all be helped and inspired by the art of music.
Feedback from Justin Bartley, Music Director at the Atlanta Preparatory Academy:
“Good News! Several of the kids did take away from your presentation…A few young ladies are now interested in not only becoming singers, but actually studying voice as a major!!! Thank you for being such an inspiration to the kids!”
From the Top’s broadcast for Show 249 was taped in was taped in The Palladium at The Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, IN on Wednesday, March 21, 2012. We asked our performers to tell us about the music they performed on the show:
Nathan Meltzer, violin, 11
Hejre Kati, Scènes de la csárda, No. 4, Op. 32
By: Jenö Hubay
This is a Hungarian gypsy piece, and I really like gypsy music. Maybe it is because I grew up in Vienna across from a tavern, where every night I heard a violin and an accordion playing this kind of music. I try to play the piece like I imagine it would be played in that tavern. It has a really juicy opening. At a master class, Vadim Gluzman told me to not rush any note. He suggested I imagine a one-hundred-year-old man thinking about the love of his life, trying to hold onto every moment of his time with her. Since I’ve never really felt like that yet, I had better luck picturing a band of gypsies reflecting back on a hard day. In the next part, where there are light and soft double stops, I picture bandits sneaking into the gypsy camp. Then the theme returns; it is quieter and slower, because the gypsies are exhausted after the chase. Finally the music turns light and happy again. The bandits are gone, and it’s time to dance!
As with Zigeunerweisen (by Pablo de Sarasate) and other gypsy pieces I’ve played, I like having the freedom to play around with the interpretation. I also like how I’m able to slack off on some proper shifting techniques and have some very romantic shifts and slides. What I kind of like and kind of don’t like about the piece is that every section is really unique and has its own challenge (style, character, technique). I have to practice every part of it with a very different focus. In the opening, there is a lot of repetition, and the challenge is to make each repetition a little different so it stays interesting. In the fast, dancing part of the piece, I have to work to get the bow articulation right. But it is a really a fun piece to learn and play.
Post Show Reflections: I liked everything, from the pizza party to the outreach programs. I really enjoyed myself! I especially liked hanging out backstage during the show. I also really liked all the people I met. They were not only great musicians but great people. Before I went on stage, I was very nervous. But after Tim and everybody did their comedy acts, I felt better. While I was playing, I felt like I could just go for it because we had already recorded it earlier that day. During the interview, the audience was very encouraging, so I felt like I belonged up there.
I believe that music has the power to make people cry/ laugh/etc. It is a way to communicate what you can’t say.
Tyler Rhodes, guitar, 18
Spanish Dance No.5, “Andaluza”
By: Enrique Granados
To me, this piece of music is very deep. I actually do imagine stories and images when I play. For this piece, I love picturing a middle-aged man complaining about his pathetic love life.
What I like about Spanish Dance No. 5 is that it’s very listener friendly. The musical phrases aren’t too difficult to express, so I can just relax a bit and enjoy it.
Post Show Reflections: My favorite memory was hanging out backstage during the show; a lot of interesting things went down. People never got tired of my sock-hands and we formed Captain Planet with our metals! Well, the concert was a harder performance than I’m used to since I was being recorded. But it felt great to play in such a beautiful space and try to let go!
Music has the power to emotionally connect to others on a whole other level. It impacts people in great and inspiring ways.
Sydney Lee, cello, 15
Introduction & Polonaise Brillante, Op. 3
By: Frédéric Chopin
Chopin’s Polonaise Brillante is one of his earliest compositions. He composed this piece at the age of 19. It’s a showy, fantastic piece in the “happy” key of C major that is a lot of fun to play. What makes it so brilliant are the virtuostic ornamentations, wide jumps, arpeggios, and fast runs. When playing the fast runs, it is crucial that the cellist mimics the pianist’s smooth, continuous motion. Although they are technical, fast runs, Chopin presented it in a way that would show off the effortless gliding of the musicians’ fingers. Also, there are lyrical, singing sections that are charming and somewhat youthfully innocent. This all requires me to be daring, but it is so much fun to go out of my “comfort zone” and play around with the different characters. This piece is exhilerating to the very end!
Post Show Reflections: I had a blast! It was great making new friends from all over the country. We bonded quickly through our common love of music. The supportive atmosphere of the FTT staff made it so easy for us to enjoy the performances. I feel so priliveged to have played in the gorgeous Palladium. I loved sounding so big and being under the spotlight. It was like being on top of the world!
Music is the universal language. The listener is able to connect with the performer through feelings and emotions. Music has the power to touch, change, and heal the heart. Ultimately, it can change lives.
IV. Allegro Molto from Piano Quartet in D minor
By: William Walton
Graydon Tope, violin, 15
This piece is a mix of many composers that Walton listened to before he started composing. When I listen to the piece, I listen to all the different sections and try to distinguish the composers that I know whose rhythms inspired Walton in his piano quartet. Out of the multiple sections, there are two that I really love. The first is the dissonant section: the notes are powerful because of the dynamic, but also because the instruments clash. It reminds me of a person dragging their nails over a chalkboard – pleasant, right? The other section that is fun for me is the viola solo, or that general section after the eighth note passages: this passage is tranquil, it even calms me in the performances! It reminds me of a Winslow Homer painting. Many of his paintings are of boats on the ocean, but the one that I picture in my heard is the one with two men and a sexton. It looks stormy, but it also seems quite calm, like a lull in a storm. The first time that we recorded this piece, we all played it super slow, so we sounded like elephants on the Serengeti. We were laughing each time we made a mistake and Tom kept telling us to go faster. We never made it to the end we were laughing so hard! In addition to that, whenever we rehearse, Parker always says “Four!” when we end the piece. We all just smile because we all know that it is supposed to be “one.” Parker, I think, just does it intentionally to make the rehearsal more fun.
The Walton, again, is full of different styles from different composers (Gershwin, Stravinsky, Debussy, Ravel) that Walton listened to. There are many different aspects of each section that need to be accentuated when playing this piece, most importantly, the dynamics. They are what make all pieces go round but particularly for this piece, they are the most important. We try to get the dynamics, and movement, to express the emotions. The most difficult part of this piece is the intonation. There are many key changes and passages that are full of notes that are very abstract and are harmonized in a unique way with the other instruments. So, we all have difficulty matching each other tone wise, but I think we make up for that by having fun on stage, as much as intonation is important to the portrayal of the piece. Of the many chamber music pieces that I have performed, this was definitely a challenging piece to put together as a group, but I have learned so much from it because of all the composers that Walton tried to incorporate, as well as himself, in this wonderful piece. This piece captured our hearts from the moment we listened to it and it is one of the most awesome pieces I have ever played!
Post Show Reflections: My favorite moments were playing on stage and bowing with everyone, knowing that we had all accomplished a once in a lifetime opportunity. For the actual concert, my heart was beating and yet, I was clam and composed. It was fun being up on stage giving music to the people to listen to, as well as bowing to thank them at the end. It was the greatest and most positive experience ever!
Music can change yourself and other people. You learn so much from music that changes who you are every day. Playing for other people, I think, will always change your life: sharing music is one of the most powerful forms of art that has even been created. It isn’t even an art form. It is who you are.
Sloane Wesloh, viola, 15
This piece is INTENSE! Graydon described it as hormonal, like a teenager. It is scary, sweet, slow, fast, sad, happy, major, minor – you name it. Walton wrote it when he was 16, so I feel like we can relate to it really well. Despite the intensity of the piece, we end up grinning sometimes because it’s just so much fun to perform. Before performing the Walton, I get really excited rather than nervous. Backstage, I am completely psyched to introduce it and all of its energy and passion to the audience.
We really have to sell this piece. It’s not Haydn or Mozart- people aren’t used to Walton. It has to sound polished for the audience to enjoy it. It’s easy to play this piece in an out of control and crazy way, but we have to focus on staying in control of the piece for it to sound polished. That’s really difficult for us to do because we tend to be a very energetic group- it’s easy for us to get out of control! Focusing on staying in control- while still having fun and staying free- is very important for our quartet.
Post Show Reflections: I loved just being around everyone and being inspired. Everyone was a true musician and they were all wonderful people, musicians, and staff. The arts leadership orientation was SUPER FUN and I liked how it went beyond just an information session, it was about getting to know yourself. It was very fun. The Palladium is GORGEOUS. It was such an honor and privilege to have the opportunity to perform there (and on From the Top in general). I am so lucky that I got to perform in such a beautiful hall with my quartet family – we could not stop grinning at the end, we were just completely pumped!
Music has the power to change lives, build hope inspire anyone and empower everyone. It is truly magical.
Parker Tope, cello, 13
Quartet Tzigane researched William Walton on Wikipedia and read all about him. The only fact I can remember about Walton is that he was an ambulance driver (and a bad one, as he said himself). Whenever I am playing, the hectic, yet organized chaos reminds me of an ambulance and the driving issues Walton must have faced. My favorite part is when we are playing the section of insane and refreshing dissonance: all of us have a great time and have big fat grins across our faces because of how cool the music sounds. The first time we played the Walton in the recording studio; we had only just begun learning it and had only practiced maybe the first page. We decided to fool around and record the Walton, Tom kept saying “go faster!” and pushing us through the piece. In the beginning of the piece, you can hear me whooping in encouragement while we are playing and Sloane giggling and chortling. After an extended period of hilarious failure, Graydon is yelling out measure numbers of where we should start again. Evren was just playing really well and sometimes making up a bunch of notes as we get the recapitulation. I had the time of my life.
I have never played a piece more bold or audacious. I feel that the most important thing to do while playing this piece is to live and play on the edge; it makes you and the audience feel exhilarated. Even after ending piece, I can still feel the adrenaline pumping through me. The hardest part of the piece is playing together and yet with intensity. You feel the need to push ahead and go totally crazy. To play with maturity with this amazing piece of music is incredibly hard.
Post Show Reflections: Right before everyone went on stage we had a pow-wow and just laughed and had a great time. After the concert everyone was so happy and the whole entire experience bonded all of the performers. I have never experienced anything more spectacular. The Palladium is beautiful; it was an honor to play on the stage with From the Top. All of the producers were so helpful so every step of the process was easily accomplished. It was such a fun and memorable experience. It was so awesome to be able to play on From the Top; it has always been a dream of mine.
When playing music on stage, my goal is always to take care of the audience and to have everyone have a great time. By sharing music and the joy of the arts, you have the power to bring together communities and different groups of people. Music is like love; it is a universal language that will never die and that is understood by everyone.
Evren Ozel, piano, 13
I think the Walton is a piece that is very well fit for teenagers: it’s moody. Venturing from colossal parts where you want to plug your ears because of the ugly harmonies, to beautiful solos that you wish you could hear more of, Walton wrote this piece when he was 16, a little older than we are. The first time we played this piece together in our studio was a nightmare.
There are infinitely many ways for this piece to be performed, and deciding on one specific way is difficult. Technically, the most challenging part of the piece is keeping the tempo, the rhythm, and how to stay together. Luckily, we haven’t had too many problems with piece yet…
Post Show Reflections: My favorite memory from the three days was the show night, where everybody was so supportive of each other backstage. We talked to each other about random things, but it just was so much fun. I always felt like performing was fun, but I never knew it could be that fun. I loved the feeling in my gut when I went on stage. It was a nervous but relaxed adrenaline, if that makes any sense.
Music has a life of its own. It can communicate, show emotion, make friends, and much more.
Evelyn Mo, piano, 13
By: Claude Debussy
This piece is one of my favorite pieces. When I play it, I imagine people dressed in velvet embarking on a happy journey to Cythera, the island of joy. It’s also full of mystery – what’s on the other side of the water? What’s at the bottom of the hill? My favorite part has to be the end: it’s rich, luscious chords are full of triumph and really sum up the whole piece. When I play this piece, I just have fun and let loose all my excitement and energy. After all, if I have a good time, so will my audience.
I think this piece is the most joyful and exuberant piece I’ve ever played. The most important thing is conveying the built-up excitement to my audience and painting each phrase with a different color. While nailing all the technical passages and rhythms is tricky. I would have to say that hitting the very last note, and not the wood of the piano, is the biggest challenge.
Post Show Reflections: My favorite moments were in the Green Room right before the taping. There was lots of good food and it was a lot of fun because everyone was so supportive, talkative, relaxed and funny. The performance was incredible. The Palladium was huge, and the acoustics and the piano were amazing. The audience was very warm and welcoming, so I didn’t ever feel very nervous at all.
I believe music has the power to do everything: invoke excitement, warm the heart, soothe the soul, calm the mind, bring tears, and even stir anger. It brings people together and expresses in ways no words can.
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