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From the Top’s broadcast for Show 264 was taped at the Sarasota Opera House in Sarasota, Florida on Tuesday December 11, 2012. We asked our performers to tell us more about their experience on the show…

Nadia Azzi, 14, piano 
I. So rasch wie möglich from Sonata No.2 in G minor, Op.22
By: Robert Schumann

My favorite part of the piece is the first chord – rather, the first measure. It is almost like calling attention to the audience: “listen to me!” I worked around with getting the 8371390696_f890f62894_cright sound of that chord as well. I think the music invokes all sorts of stories and images, but the main ideas that I got from learning this piece is that it is serious and humorous, but Schumann’s idea is crystal clear on what he exactly hopes to convey.

This piece is rather new to me, and I’ve never performed it in such a prestigious place before. I think the hardest thing to nail in the piece is the tempo. The tempo marking in the beginning is “as fast as possible.” Near the end, there are more markings that indicate to get faster and faster. It is hard to show the intensity without the right amount of speed. At the same time, it’s difficult to play clearly and precisely.

Post-Show Reflection: I loved performing in front of a live audience and getting to talk with Mr. O’Riley. The audience was very enthusiastic and energetic. After performing, I knew that this is exactly what I want to do in life.

I think music has the power to move people and change others’ lives. I believe that it can make a difference in the world more than anything else.

Kaitlyn Resler, 16, horn 
Nocturno, Op.7
By: Franz Strauss

As the piece begins, the piano sets the stage as it starts with simple D flat arpeggios. While just starting out, this seems to be a bed of flowers, where many memories lie. Through this piece the quiet flowing phrases invoke the image of a love story: a 8370335031_aa7398346a_c“prince” and “princess” fall in love with each legato line. The piece start to get louder, and comes to a climax as the love story faces issues – like they are being torn away from one another. As the piece continues, the issues are resolved and in the recap the “prince” and “princess” recall the time they first met. Through the long lines and beautiful phrasing, this love story ends well but with a slight twist of sadness right at the end.

This piece is so different than any other piece I’ve played because it is all about the long legato phrasing. Throughout the piece, each performer is given options of push and pull in certain areas. Depending on who is playing it, the performer can invoke different images and put their own story to it. This piece cannot be performed without emotion. In Nocturno, I (as the performer) can put my own heart, soul, and personality into each leading line and climactic phrase.

Post-Show Reflection: My favorite memory was the rehearsal from the first night. It was really awesome hearing all the talented performers in such a full space before the actual production crew. It was cool knowing everyone was there to support all of us, and no one was judging anyone. The show was an adventure. It was a calming yet amazing experience, and was in a different type of setting for performance. It was neat knowing everyone in the audience was there to hear beautiful music, and as advocates of the arts.

Music has the power to tell a story, and to make the audience relate to the performer. It also has the power to change lives.

Alumni feature: Abraham Feder, cello, age 27
I. Allegro vivace from Sonata No. 2 in F major for Cello and Piano, Op. 99
By: Johannes Brahms

When I play the Brahms Sonata in F Major, the first thing that pops into my head is my teacher, David Soyer, yelling at me, “It’s 8371405250_5ae72b49e1_cnot heroic enough!” He once told me in a lesson that I had to play a figure in the piece a certain way. But, when I said said, “But, Mr. Soyer, that’s not what Brahms wrote.” He responded, “I studied with Alexanian. Alexanian performed these sonatas with Brahms on the piano, and Brahms told him that’s how it’s played.” That was good enough reasoning for me!

One of the aspects of the piece that I absolutely love is that Brahms is capable of writing so heroically and lyrically, while at the same time requiring such careful, but seemingly carefree, agility from the performer. It’s what makes the piece so difficult not just to play, but also to create a continuity to the phrasing. Any hint of hiding in the opening completely destroys the character for the rest of the movement. I hope I pulled it off! Brahms absolutely one of my favorite composers. It was such an honor to perform this movement with Chris, and I can’t wait until I perform the piece again in its entirety!

Post-Show Reflection: I really enjoyed working with some friends who I haven’t seen in a few years, as well as meeting the news faces of the staff who keep From the Top alive. It was also great to listen to some very talented young artists – classical music has a bright future! For the actual show, I had the “home court advantage” here in Sarasota (in that most people from the audience know who I am). I really enjoy performing for this community. Over the years, I feel like I’ve established a report with this audience – I know them, they know me, and it was wonderful to be able to share some different music with them!

I believe that music is greater than all of us. It has the power to inspire, and the power to move people. I feel so fortunate that I get to wake up everyday and look forward to being a vessel for music.

Jennifer Kim, 14, guitar
Un Sueño en la Floresta 
By: Agustín Barrios Mangoré Kim

The piece that I am performing, Un Sueño by Agustín Barrios, is very romantic and dreamy. Whenever I practice or perform this piece, I try to imagine myself wandering through a tropical forest, like Barrios must have done. My favorite part is in the middle 8370345813_265e8dd51e_cof the piece, where there is a dramatic scale. One time, when I performed this piece for the American Guitar Society, someone in the audience had their cell phone ring. I was trying to play as musically as possible and I felt that the ring tone had an interesting blend with the music.

Most of this piece is using tremolo, where I play the melody with three fingers of my right hand in a fast, repeating pattern, and the accompaniment with my thumb. It’s a difficult technique to play evenly, accurately, with a beautiful tone, and also musically. There are a few moments in the piece that I feel are very tender, and I like to play those places very softly, which gives it a magical beauty. Towards the end of the piece, there is a phrase that reminds of two vocalists singing in octaves. What also makes this piece so challenging is because the left hand stretches are crazy, and it goes to the highest note on the guitar! Most guitars only go up to the high B, but in order to play Un Sueño, the guitar needs to have a high C!

Post-Show Reflection: My favorite memory from the three days was the pizza party – everyone was nice and kind towards me, and the staff were all very funny. When I performed on the stage, I was very nervous, and kind of scared, because I wanted to play well. I decided to close my eyes and just breathe for a few seconds. When I played the piece, I was striving to play musically, because that was all that I felt was important. Overall, it was a very fun and exciting experience.

I believe music has the power to change lives and motivate kids to new ideas.

Kevin Zhu, 12, violin
Carmen Fantasie
By: Franz Waxman

I think that this piece can really bring you into the music. Most of the time when I play this piece, I think about the Carmen opera by Bizet, and what the human voice sounds like. That helps me determine the music more than anything else and gives me a sense8370350755_c9da5d423d_c of how the piece should or could be played. The other times I’m solely concentrated on the technique, but the results vary. I don’t have a favorite part, but my least favorite part is during the last two minutes or so, where the technical difficulty is overwhelming and sometimes frustrating to play. Also, I have bad memories with the very beginning: during a masterclass with Midori, I messed up badly when performing that section, and I was really embarrassed.

This piece is unique in how much expression needs to go into it. I have never played a piece requiring so much heart and expression…parts of Chausson’s “Poeme” may be getting close, but almost everything else is way below this piece in terms of expression. I feel that this piece is technically difficult, and that comes into focus in the beginning and end. On top of that, you need to do it as musically as possible. That makes it a nearly impossible piece to play without precision, technique, and expression.

Post-Show Reflection: My favorite memory from the three days was the concert itself at the Sarasota Opera House. The hall was very wide and had a second balcony, so it was a bit nerve-wracking to perform. I was afraid my bow would hit the piano or the microphone, so I was cautious. Other than that, it was comfortable for me to be on the stage.

I believe music has the power to inspire others and change their lives.


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Alex Zhou, 11, violin
Zigeunerweisen, Op. 20
By: Pablo de Sarasate

My favorite part of the Zigeunerweisen is the fast, dancing section. I don’t really have a least favorite part of the piece. Christopher O'Riley and Alex ZhouWhen I play the first half/slow part of the piece, I try to think of homeless people dressed in bright red dresses begging for food. Then, in the fast section, I imagine them rising up from their weary positions and dancing and twirling to the sound of violins.

When I play this piece, I think the things I need to get across are the many runs and arpeggios in the beginning, and the harmonics, left-hand pizzicatos, and spicatto at the end.

Post-Show Reflection: Other than performing, I really enjoyed the pizza party and hanging out with the other performers. It was quite nerve-wracking to perform in front of a huge crowd, but it was also really fun and a great performance.

Music has the power to empower, inspire, and create change.

Annie Wu, 16, flute
III. Lively, with Bounce from Duo for Flute and Piano
By: Aaron Copland

The Copland Duo is one of Copland’s works that emulates his signature American style. He uses many different rhythms and moods overall, and creates a bubbly, upbeat last movement. Some parts are even quite jazzy, and reflect Copland’s great interest in that genre. In the last movement, he switches back and forth between an energetic tune and a slower, jazzy one Annie Wuthat reminds me of a drunken Cowboy. I especially love all the opportunities to explore articulations – some descending runs even sound like a hearty laugh to me – hahaha!

The Copland Duo is such a pleasure to play and perform because it truly is a piece of chamber music. There is a constant conversation between the flute and piano lines that makes every performance a new and exciting experience. The characters of this movement are also very distinctive and varying – I especially love exploring them and finding ways to connect everything together in just a few short minutes.

Post-Show Reflection: My favorite memory was definitely the performance – it was an amazing experience to play and then talk to Christopher O’Riley. The show was invigorating – there was such a huge and receptive audience.

Music has the power to bring out emotions in people and memories.

Alec Holcomb, 17, guitar
Prelude No.15 in D-flat Major, Raindrop
By: Frédéric Chopin (trans. József Eötvös)

There are very few pieces that fit well and sound decent on the guitar. Fortunately, this piece (which I heard my brother playing on the piano years ago and has since become one of my favorite pieces) does both. What’s interesting about this Alec Holcombpiece being played on the guitar as opposed to the piano is, as an intimate piece, the guitar has such a broad range of sounds and colors that can really tap into the mood(s) of the piece in a profound manner. The guitar, for the guitarist, is one of the most intimate instruments because the player can literally touch the notes, making this prelude all the more intimate. I like to think if Chopin, being as passionate about the guitar as he was, had decided to compose for guitar, he would have been hard-pressed to write a more fitting piece.

This piece was inspired by raindrops Chopin heard during a rainstorm (though he would not admit it). A few months ago in a competition, I could not have played this piece at a more appropriate time, as it was storming outside, and the raindrops were audible on the roof of the hall. I got a few comments on the irony of my music choice that day.

The range of dynamics on the piano, compared to the guitar, is much greater, especially on the forte end of the dynamic spectrum. The guitar, at its loudest, is still a relatively quiet instrument. One of the difficulties I had with this piece was creating the illusion of becoming ear-splittingly loud on the build of the B section (the storm-like section). To do this, I learned to manage my color and volume in a sort of process that accomplished this goal. One thing I introduced to this piece was setting piano as my normal volume, and when there was a need for more “oomph” I had plenty of room to crescendo, the immediately return to piano afterwards. I also learned to use the ponticello sound of the guitar to create a false crescendo, which gave me even more room to grow dynamically.

Phoebe Pan, 15, piano
“Soirée de Vienne” – Concert Paraphrase on Die Fledermaus by Strauss, Op. 56
By: Alfred Grünfeld

This particular piece is a very energetic and lively piece. It conveys a certain sense of lightheartedness, and being a waltz, it’s an easy piece to dance to. Whenever I play or hear it, I always think of a grand ballroom in Vienna and people waltzing Phoebe Panwith grins plastered on their faces.

The unique factor in this piece is that it’s a piano arrangement of an opera overture. Therefore, it’s slightly more difficult to convey the feeling of the piece. With an orchestra, you’ve got the power of the strings, the crystal clear woodwinds, and the rich sound of the brass section. So I somehow have to communicate all of that through one instrument: the piano.

Post-Show Reflection: I loved the competitive “quiz” after my performance ?  I also really liked being backstage afterwards and talking to the other performers. The waiting part before my performance was a bit nerve-wracking, but as soon as I stepped on stage I was fine. It felt really good once I finished ?

I believe that music has the power to change people’s lives and bring new opportunities to everyone.

The Angeles Trio
“Primaver Porteña” from The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires
By: Astor Piazzolla

Kristina Zlatareva, 19, violin

I consider Piazzolla’s music to be very passionate and moving. Primaver Portena reminds me of a conversation between The Angeles Triotwo Argentinian tango dancers – while playing it, I can imagine the intricate steps that are involved in a tango, and the precise and specific movements incorporated in the dance. My favorite part of this movement is the violin solo in the slower section, which responds to the cello solo just before. I see the violin solo as the female elegance and beauty in a tango.

It is crucial that the precise tempos and rhythms are kept clear. It is also important to not let go of emotions while playing, because it can take away from the precision of the sound, tempo, and clarity. It is crucial that the cello and violin blend together.

Post-Show Reflection: I loved talking on the show with Christopher O’Riley, and spending time with the other wonderful and talented fellow musicians on the show. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life: being able to share my passion for music with such a broad audience was definitely a dream come true.

Music has the power to change one’s mindset and view on the world in a positive way – it has the power to soother, cure and inspire.

JiSun Jung, 18, cello

I imagine the love between a woman and a man, like they are having a conversation with each other. The Angeles TrioThe cello solo is like a man trying to attract the woman, and after that the piece goes back to the same them as the beginning.

This piece is divided into four seasons – we are playing “Spring.” Since this is a tango, the rhythm of this piece is really charming, and the cello solo is especially attractive.

Post-Show Reflection: My favorite memories were hanging out with/getting to know the other performers, the actual show, and the pizza party! The show was a new, fresh experience for me – I felt comfortable for both the interview and during the performance.

Music is something that makes people look inside, and feel passionate about their own power.

JiaYing Dong, 18, piano

This piece is about a dance called the “tango.” The music feels like it can be about a love story between a man and a woman. My favorite part of the piece is at the beginning – it’s the main theme.

This was the first time I ever played a dance piece, having never played tango music before. You have to capture the feeling right at the beginning.

Post-Show Reflection: My favorite memories were the actual concert and directly after, at the reception. The show was AWESOME! I felt really good, and it was so different than other performances I’ve done.

Music can bring pleasure to people, and make the world a better and happier place!

The Angeles Trio


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Annie Wu Davis High

(photo courtesy Ruth Rosenberg)

The day after From the Top’s taping at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts in Davis, CA, we traveled to Davis High School to meet with students involved in the school’s orchestra program. Performers Annie Wu (flute), Kristina Zlatareva (violin), JiSun Jung (cello), and JiaYing Dong (piano) joined us for the event. In addition to playing some of their favorite pieces of music, our performers also shared some of their own musical experiences and gave helpful advice for staying motivated.

Check out the video below to see some highlights!


Davis School Visit
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Congratulations to the From the Top alumni honored as some of the top young artists in the country by the YoungArts program. Each year, YoungArts selects 150 seniors in high school who have demonstrated achievement  in the visual, performing, and literary arts to come together for an exciting week of master classes, performances, and seminars. 20 of these YoungArts Finalists will go on to  receive the honor of US Presidential Scholar in the Arts. Congrats to the following From the Top alumni who head to Miami next week, let us know how it goes!

Brannon Cho / Millburn High School / Short Hills, New Jersey

Anna Han / Arizona Virtual Academy / Chandler, Arizona

Alec Holcomb / Ensworth High School / Franklin, Tennessee

Hilda Huang / Palo Alto Senior High School / Palo Alto, California

Annika Jenkins / Laurel Springs Gifted and Talented Academy / Virginia Beach, Virginia

Jean Kim / Sleepy Hollow High School / Sleepy Hollow, New York

Hugo Kitano / Lowell High School / San Francisco, California

Kelly Talim / New Trier Township High School / Wilmette, Illinois

Tatum Robertson / Walnut Hill School / New Orleans, Louisiana / VOICE

Anthony Trionfo / Interlochen Arts Academy / Interlochen, Michigan

Sarina Zhang / California Virtual Academies / New York, New York

Congratulations to the From the Top alumni also recognized by YoungArts: NoahKim, Evan Lin, Eric Goldberg, Ashley Robillard, and Arianna Korting. We hope we haven’t missed anyone!


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8291318433_bd25cac0f6_bFrom the Top’s broadcast for Show 262 was taped at the Palace Theatre in Greensburg, PA on Sunday October 21, 2012. We asked our performers to tell us more about their experience on the show…

Quartet Stracciatella
IV. Allegro from String Quartet No.2 “Intimate Letters,”
By: Leoš Janácek

Erika Gray, 16, violin

As a group, we have talked about how this movement is a love story, putting emphasis on the title “Intimate Letters,” One of my favorite sections, no doubt, is an especially intimate section between the 2 violins: the melody and octaves 8292390192_043cc7aa49_care beautifully crafter. In a quartet rehearsal once, we came up with a very elaborate story – every time we rehearse this, we end up laughing at the story’s particular highlights.

What helped us in learning this piece a lot was creating characters and playing with those emotions. Definitely getting intonation was difficult but not so that we couldn’t accomplish it. This piece has such a high level of intensity that performing is exhausting. We know we’ve done our job if we are breathless by that last note.

Post-Show Reflection: There are so many favorite memories – of course, putting together the show and dancing to “Gangnam Style” for the bows was awesome. One memory that stuck out was the dinner at the Olive Garden. Stephanie, Johannes, Ariel, Daniel and I went and had the best time. We laughed so hard that Daniel fell out of his char. We really bonded, and created lifelong friendships. Ever since I was little, I had wanted to play on this show. Now that I have had that chance, it was incredible ad exhilarating! I had so much fun, and it was one of the most amazing performance opportunities ever!

Music has the power to inspire, make a difference, encourage, and take us beyond our limits.

HyunJae Lim, 14, violin

It is a unique piece, and there are “solo” parts marked for all of us.

Post-Show Reflection: My favorite moment was seeing how the From the Top radio show is taped. It was a new experience for me, and was exciting since so many people will be hearing it later on.

Music has the power to encourage, strengthen, and inspire people who may have difficulties with their lives or not. Without music, the world be just be in dead silence.

Stephanie Block, 18, viola

When I play this piece with my quartet, I think of all the chances it gives us to interact (more than usual) with one another. We have kind of a weird story that goes along with it that has to do with love affairs, going along with the “Intimate Letters” that Janacek wrote to a woman he loved. It has so many exciting and different emotions that are all CRAZY – what’s not to like? It’s so fun to play every time. Sometimes it was hard to get through it without laughing, 8291333835_7d48e9ef18_cthough.

It can be a challenge for a group of young kids to play a piece like this without simply hacking though it. What we try to do is make sure the sweet and romantic parts are just as clear as the crazy ones. The hardest things to nail are definitely the crazy jumps and accidentals and coordinating them with the other members of the group!

Post-Show Reflection: There are too many good memories from the weekend! However, I think my top memories start with getting to know everyone, celebrating our Fischoff achievement on stage, bonding with my quartet and Daniel and Ariel for three hours at the Olive Garden, and of course convincing FTT to let us surprise the audience with “Gangnam Style”! The performance was just fun. I have been on a stage with my quartet many times, and the mutual care and understanding of each other always comes through when we perform. We knew it was going to be a blast, so there is nothing to worry about!

Music has the power to bring joy, relieve physical pain, heal broken hearts, invigorate, and inspire. Its power never fades.

Johannes Gray, 15, cello

Our quartet always thinks of a love story between the players, and there is some dream between us happening, so we all get mad at each other. Those are the angry sounding sections. But there are also the beautiful duet parts where everything is going swimmingly.

The most important thing is bringing our story to the audience. It has more meanng to them because as a more modern piece, it’s ore unusual than most classical pieces.

Post-Show Reflection: I loved going to the Olive Garden with some other performers, and bonding so well. We had so much fun and I feel like I know them so well. Performing on a stage is always an amazing experience and, as a quartet, it’s different than solo performance. I know I have a backup no matter what happens, are we’re here to have fun!

Music has the power to do anything, so long that people respect/listen to the music. As long as people love, it will continue to be a very powerful means of communication.

Ariana Chiu, 12, piano
“The Cat and the Mouse”
By: Aaron Copland

“The Cat and the Mouse” is an interesting piece of music because it’s an actual story based on a fable. When I play through the difference “scenes” of the story, I mostly think from the mouse’s point of view, not the cat’s. My favorite 8291332955_17f5492b04_cpart of the “chasing” is the part where the mouse is hiding in the mouse hole. The cat is waiting impatiently outside the hole, slowly becoming drowsier…and drowsier. My least favorite part is when the mouse is at its funeral: the grave and sad part near the end. I can just imagine the cat chasing the mouse, succeeding, and then walking away like nothing happened.

When I perform this piece, I’m usually aiming to have the person who’s listening know what’s going on in the story. For example, the audience should recognize when the mouse is caught from the way I play that particular passage. The hardest part of playing this piece is maintaining the excitement. Compared to other pieces, this particular one should be the most recognizable in where the story is going, what it’s about, and where the peak resolution is.

Post-Show Reflection: Some highlights from the show were experiencing the rehearsals and meeting new friends! I really liked how everything was very welcoming and familiar, and made my experience on From the Top even better!!! (plus, dancing to “Gangnam Style” after bowing on stage!)

Performing was so exciting! The performance itself was so enjoyable, and the whole experience in general was/has been one of my biggest goals, and one of the biggest highlights of my musical experiences. I loved it!!!

I believe music has the power to do anything – if you believe in it and put your mind to it. In the future, I’m sure we all hope classical music will spread and that we can share our love and passion for music with everyone.

Ariel Horowitz, 16, violin
I. Mit leidenschaftlichem Ausdruck from Sonata No.1 for Violin & Piano in A minor, Op.105
By Robert Schumann

I find this piece to be very dark – almost cold and evil at times. I know Schumann had many psychological issues, and this piece really reflects that – he switches from his angry, passionate side to his cold, austere side many times throughout the movements – sometime in the middle of the measure! It almost reminds me of the Queen of Hearts 8292384072_518dd668b6_cfrom Alice in Wonderland: one second she is ordering peoples’ heads to be cut off, and the next she is haughty, and then she is weak and vulnerable. Schumann’s mood changes make shivers run down your spine.

Learning this piece has been a deeply emotional journey for me. I originally played the piece in a mushy, gushy romantic way – that is, until I played it for Professor William Van der Sloot at Morningside Music Bridge last summer. He told me to play the piece while cowering in the corner, as if I were in total darkness and hadn’t seen any light in twenty years! I’d never felt as frighteningly powerless while playing a piece of music before. Now, I always imagine I’m in a dark little hole when I play Schumann. The irony is that it takes a lot of power to convey the powerlessness and pain of the piece.

Post-Show Reflection: My favorite memory was going to Olive Garden with my new friends for dinner after the show! I had so much fun getting to know all of these talented people ,and we are all going to be lifelong friends! I hope we can have a musical reunion! For the radio taping, I felt completely at ease – I wasn’t nervous at all! I think it’s because the staff are all so friendly and welcoming. I felt really great about my performance, and sharing the stage with Christopher O’Riley was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

Music brings people together across cultures, border, and experiences. If we can use that power to make a difference in our communities, we can make the world better.

Sophia Lee, 14, harp
“Féerie: Prélude et Danse”
By: Marcel Tournier.

“Féerie” is French for “fairy-like.” So when I play this piece, I imagine small magical creatures that flit about in various nature scenes. For example, the opening scene is a 8291327403_c5d51cb7d4_c-1meadow. Twinkling fairies appear in different distances, depending on the dynamics. The piece is split into 2 parts – a prelude and a dance. My favorite part of the piece is the dance, which is quick and light. I imagine a fairy party with fairies enjoying various festivities, such as dancing and feasting.

This is by far the longest and most challenging piece I have every played. It is challenging, both technically and musically. There are a variety of techniques I use to make different sounds to create changing moods. The most important and difficult message to convey is the variety of different moods through this piece. There are brittle, sharp sounds and subtle sounds that can be achieved through harmonics.

Post-Show Reflection: My favorite memory was the dress rehearsal listening to everybody play and hearing about all of the great activities everyone does to incorporate music even more into their community. FTT definitely did so much to keep me relaxed. One of the best things was that it was organized and everybody was very professional, so I didn’t have to worry about important details (like moving the harp). Instead, I could concentrate on playing to the best of my ability :-)

Music has the power to do whatever the musician wants. Using creativity and some resources, the musician can do whatever they want to help make a difference in the world and community.

Daniel Hass, 15, cello
III. Rasch, mit Feuer from Fantasiestücke, Op.73
By: Robert Schumann

This is a beautiful piece by Schumann, and I just enjoy playing it. 8292378312_aa36bf0701_cIt is lively and energetic, and very lyrical all at the same time. The piece has a lot of contrast between the lyrical part and the fiery part, and it is important to bring out those contrasts. Throughout the movement, motifs from previous movements appear, and you need to get in the mood of those movements just for these one or two bars.

Post-Show Reflection: My favorite memory was dinner at the Olive Garden. The live taping was really a lot of fun!

Music has the power to make people feel good and show them how to have fun!  


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From the Top’s Show 261 was taped at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall in Boston, Massachusetts on Sunday, October 14, 2012. We asked our performers to share their thoughts on the music they performed for the show:

Sebastian Stoger, 13, cello
“Pezzo Capriccioso”
By: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

When I play this piece of music, I think about different emotions: some angry, but mostly happy. I think of the angry emotions at the introduction of the Pezzo capriccioso and the happy ones for the rest of the piece (especially the fast parts!) The first time I performed this pieced has been the first time I ever played it with the piano accompaniment. I Sebastian Stoger2thought I was going to have to stop at some parts because I thought that the piano and I would have some trouble being together, but surprisingly it worked our alright.

This piece of music is very special compared to other music that I’ve played. In playing this piece, it is harder to switch from different ways of playing emotions than other repertoire. Something that’s really hard to nail in this music is the last couple of fast runs in the last part of the piece. Every time I play the runs, I always get sloppy at that last part. I keep practicing that part over and over again so that the last part isn’t sloppy…yet the next day, it is sloppy again!

Post-Show Reflection: My favorite memory was the day that I performed: I was so happy to see my friends from the Perlman Music Program and my family. Since most of the lights were off in the house, the audience seemed so far away. It was only Chris and I who were together. This is a good thing, because then I didn’t have to be nervous about the audience.

Music has the power to open people’s minds, and give them a fascinating imagination. Music has the power to shape cultures, and most importantly, change people’s perspectives.

Bryan Duerfeldt, 18, recorder

When I perform this piece, I have two roles. The first is straightforward – transport my audience to a different time and place (I like to think of a dance in a royal court), and give them a sense of nobility and relaxations that they may Bryan Duerfeldt1not always get in their busy lives. My second purpose is to expose them to the wonderful capabilities of the recorder (a widely misunderstood instrument). This piece, perhaps more than any other, allows me to show of the technical passages yet also connect emotionally with the audience, to create beautiful moments.

This is my favorite piece of music for the recorder – which is lucky, considering the countless hours I’ve spent practicing and performing it over the past couple years. There is a certain lightness that needs to come across in the fast movements, an ease of playing that cannot betray frustrating technical difficulties.

Post-Show Reflection: I loved pretty much everything Elizabeth (Aoki) did – Literally – and getting to hear everybody play at the first rehearsal. For the show, I just remember feeling comfortable and relaxed; it was just about having fun and sharing myself with my audience. Everyone was on the same team: making something beautiful together.

Music can facilitate connections between audience and performer, and break down barriers – socioeconomic, ideological, etc. It is truly universal, a pure honest medium that can promote positive change.

Vanessa Meiling Haynes, 15, piano,
III. Allegro ma non troppo – Presto from Sonata No.23 in F minor, Op. 57, “Appassionata”
By: Ludwig van Beethoven

I think the third movement of this Sonata is crazy! Literally! It was written shortly after Beethoven realized that he would never get his hearing back and would become deaf. I feel Beethoven wrote this movement when he really wanted to let his built-up emotions free, almost like he’s writing “emotions fly away, scatter on the pages!” in musicalVanessaHaynes1 form! Playing this movement is like running through the woods and being confused where I am. The further I run the more emotional themes I face. Finally, the woods thin – the emotions start to be clearer to Beethoven, so he goes into a coda that gives a completely different theme and emotion, almost like he is wanting to forget and move on. Then he remembers again, and here comes the most exciting ending cadence, where millions of bugs each filled with emotion fly by saying, “I’M DONE, GOOD BYE!”

I love Beethoven, and I love all of his piano sonatas. Many, including Beethoven, and me believe the Appassionata is one of his most tempestuous sonatas. The third movement is ESPECIALLY one of the most exciting but it is also one of the most difficult to grasp that I’ve ever learned. The most difficult aspect to nail is to be able to keep the intensity and keep the emotional meaningful through ALL of those flying notes, and not allow it to get boring. It is difficult to be able to control the timing of how many of the emotions should be allowed out, and how many should be kept in, to keep it very steady, and serious.

Post-Show Reflection: The live taping was SO MUCH FUN! I loved the crowd, the audience was so cheerful and supportive. Being able to share my story on stage with Mr. O’Riley was a great feeling.

Music has a great impact – it can tell stories, it can be personal, and it can definitely be therapeutic in a way. It can be all emotions.

Elizabeth Aoki, 9, violin 
“Introduction and Tarantelle,” Op.43
By: Pablo de Sarasate

Elizabeth Aoki3I like the piece – I don’t care for the Introduction, but really like the Tarantelle: it’s fast and exciting. To me, this piece reminds me of a fast dance. I played this piece for the United Nation’s Secretary General.

Compared to my other pieces, which are long like concertos, this piece is very short. When I’m playing, I think about intonation a lot. I hope and want to touch people’s heart though my music.

Post-Show Reflection: Everything was really fun, and the live performance was very exciting.

Music has the power to touch people’s hearts.

William Su, 18, bass/baritone
“Amor marinaro” (Sailor’s love)
By: Gaetano Donizetti

Post-Show Reflection: I had a really good time in the show and at the rehearsals – I loved the feeling of being on WilliamSuthat stage, and felt that the audience was very interested.

Music can help people find out who they are.


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Performers from show 263

The performers sporting their From the Top medals after the taping

Late October found us in Davis, California where we taped an episode of the radio show at the Mondavi Center, a stunning concert hall on the campus of UC Davis. This show was full of interesting and talented kids, including three who’ve won major competitions.

Kicking things off was a very young violinist –12-year-old Alex Zhou, who played one of my favorite violin showpieces, Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen. He was followed by flutist Annie Wu,who not only played classical flute, but also a beatboxing piece (you’ve got to check this out in the sneak peek – it’s pretty amazing)!

17-year-old Alex Holcomb was up next playing Chopin’s Raindrop Prelude transcribed for classical guitar. Chopin on guitar is not something you hear every day, and he played beautifully.

We met pianist Phoebe Pan next, who actually first met Christopher O’Riley when he was one the judges at a piano competition she won. We had to have some fun with the fact that three of the kids on this show were competition winners by having them compete in a quiz called “A Competition Competition.” The winning prize was a fabulous, aluminum, deluxe, logo-emblazoned From the Top water bottle! Clearly there was a lot at stake.

Closing the show was a trio of teens, all new to the U.S. from three different countries, who performed from “The 4 Seasons of Beunos Aires” by Astor Piazzolla – an exciting ending to a great show.

Check out the sneak peek below, and don’t forget to tune in when the show airs the week of January 14!

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It’s that time of year again – The Blount-Slawson Young Artists Competition is accepting applications! Musicians in grades 7-12 can enter to win prizes including $10,000 cash, a performance with the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra, and an appearance on From the Top! String, wind, brass, percussion, and piano students are eligible to apply. Applications must be postmarked no later than December 7.

Click here for more information about the competition.

Evelyn Mo performs L’isle joyeuse by Claude Debussy on her From the Top appearance in March of 2012 after winning the Blount-Slawson Young Artist Competition.

All competitors will play one concerto movement in the preliminary round on January 26 at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama, and nine finalists will perform on Sunday, January 27. From the Top Music Producer Tom Vignieri is once again a member of the judging panel – click here to read his behind-the-scenes account of the competition!

We encourage all young musicians to consider this wonderful opportunity, so please share this information.


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All of the young musicians posing with host Chris O’Riley after their impromptu performance!

Towards the end of October we were in Greensburg, Pennsylvania for a taping at the Palace Theatre. It was a great show and the young musicians really bonded and had fun together– as evidenced by what happened during curtain call!

In what has to be one of the most unexpected moments in From the Top history, the entire group of young performers decided to treat the audience to a little Gangnam Style.

Haven’t heard of that? Have no fear – I hadn’t either until being schooled by the kids! Basically, “Gangnam Style” is the name of a catchy pop tune with a video that features the singer doing highly comical dance moves, and it has become a huge Youtube sensation.

Anyway, right before the show was to begin, we were all backstage getting ready to go on ­– and in From the Top land, that generally means laughing and goofing around. There’s always an atmosphere of excitement and energy before the show starts, and on this particular occasion several of the kids were having fun showing off their “Gangnam Style” dance moves to each other. And then they came up with this crazy idea…

Flash forward to the end of the show. It’s curtain call and all of the young performers have walked onstage to take their final bows. They bow as per usual, and the audience cheers, and then, without warning, the “Gangnam Style” song comes on over the speakers, and all of the kids start dancing! It definitely made for a fun and unique end to one of our shows.

I found out afterwards that the kids had stormed the control room with their curtain call idea – and as one of them happened to have an mp3 of the song handy (and as our producers happen to be extremely cool), they made it happen!

Of course we managed to capture some of this on Flipcam, and you can see it at the end of this week’s sneak peek! Enjoy, and make sure to tune in when this show airs the first week of January 2013.


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I think it is very important for musicians these days to be flexible and able to do many types of jobs in the music world aside from playing an instrument. 

Cellist Nikita Annenkov (Show 238) had a really unique experience this past summer at the Chamber Music Connection’s (CMC) Summer Music Festival – he was a teacher, a mentor, and an arts administrator. Nikita reflects on his experience at the festival below…

I have been with Chamber Music Connection (CMC) since 2007, which was when I moved to Ohio from Uzbekistan. I was a recipient of the Chamber Music Columbus Scholarship and was also a part of the CMC Fellowship Program. My chamber music experience comes mostly from CMC – I grew to love the program as it guided me on the path to be a well-rounded musician over the years. I attended CMC’s 2012 Summer Festival as a returning alumnus, where I assisted with chamber ensemble coachings and helped advertise CMC to the community. I think it is very important for musicians these days to be flexible and able to do many types of jobs in the music world aside from playing an instrument. It is well known that times are tough for young musicians, so being a well-rounded musician with many skills, including administrative, will provide more opportunities to succeed in the field of music.

This summer I experienced what it can be like in the “real professional world”. As part of promoting CMC, for example, I had to contact local businesses and find advertising opportunities. At first I was very nervous, having not had much experience talking to business people – I was officially representing CMC and had to be professional. After the first few places I visited, it started to become much easier – by the end of an hour of meetings, I had talked to a number of business owners who were happy to host a chamber music group’s performance during the festival week. One business even offered to host a small fundraiser and donate a portion of the profits to support CMC. I learned that it is as important to be able to represent yourself and make a name for yourself as knowing how to play your instrument; talent and skills will not mean much when nobody knows about you. Being engaged with musicians but not actually performing made me think of other career choices I might like if it doesn’t work out with cello performance. I have thought about other career choices and I found that I would enjoy other subjects, such as teaching theory or becoming a music critic. When the festival started, I would take a group to downtown Worthington everyday at lunch to play in front of a local business. Of course, since the program was mostly made up of younger musicians, Graeter’s Ice Cream became the favorite place to play. This year CMC celebrated its 20th anniversary, but there were still people from the community who had never heard of the program – they quickly came to enjoy the “Classical Music – Ice Cream Afternoon Special”.  I also got a chance to coach a chamber music orchestra, which was very interesting. I haven’t had much experience coaching young musicians before, so I had to adjust and find ways to make the rehearsal interesting and productive.

The whole experience of being an alum, as well as being a part of CMC, but not as a performer, definitely made me feel more professional and responsible. My task of promoting CMC may not have been a difficult one, but it was very rewarding. I had to make decisions, take charge, and be on time – all tasks worth having as a performer. I am very happy that I had an opportunity to challenge myself this way and have such a productive summer.


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