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.
Towards the end of March, we taped a show at The Palladium – a beautiful, acoustically-ideal concert hall that’s part of the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, Indiana. We had taped a show at the Palladium just last year and the excitement behind our return allowed us to make a number of connections with the community. Two weeks before we even arrived, local bassoonist Tom English (Show #233) was busy promoting our return to Carmel. He traveled to the Prime Life Enrichment Center, where he performed several solo works and spoke about his experience on our show last year.
On the day of the show, a group of sound engineering students from Crowne Point High School drove all the way to Carmel (nearly two hours) to attend our dress rehearsal and get a behind-the-scenes look at a live recording session. After the rehearsal, they met with our sound engineer, Berred Ouellette, who explained the process of taking the show from live concert to radio broadcast. Berred also treated the students to a backstage tour to see and experience our recording equipment.
The day after the show, we took our stellar cast over to Carmel Middle School to meet with a group of seventh-grade orchestra students. First up was violinist Nathan Meltzer, who shared how he creates characters for the different sections of a Mozart concerto to keep practicing fun. Next was cellist Sydney Lee, who performed Chopin’s Introduction & Polonaise Brillante and demonstrated some techniques she used to tackle the tougher passages. Guitarist Tyler Rhodes performed the beautiful Spanish Dance No.5 by Enrique Granados, then shared his own struggles with staying motivated. He talked about his transition from electric guitar to classical, and how the emotion he feels in classical music is different and more powerful than anything else he’s experienced.
Quartet Tzigane walked us through what it takes to work together as a chamber group, including the importance of a metronome (their “best friend”) and taking everything at slow pace to work out all of the notes and dynamics. They also shared a favorite warm-up activity: improvising on the main theme from Pirates of the Caribbean. Check out the following video for some highlights from the visit:
Today we are spotlighting the work of 2 of our 2011 Arts Leaders: Anna & Nash, who shadowed the Boston Public Quartet and aided in their after-school chamber music program called musiConnects, whose mission is to create social change through chamber music.
The two bright young leaders had the opportunity to observe and take part in every aspect of running a non-profit organization including marketing, fundraising, teaching and much more. They even planned and performed their own benefit concert to support musiConnects, raising over $700.
Anna & Nash were just two of the students who took their music beyond the concert hall in 2011, and YOU can be a part of the next group of movers and shakers who use the arts to make a difference. For more information on the Year-Long Arts Leadership Program, click here, or contact Rosena Cornet, Education Program Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 617-437-0707 x123.
We had an exciting array of outreach events around our radio taping earlier last month in Ogden, Utah! Thanks to our presenter Weber State University (WSU), our staff and performers had the chance to make some inspiring connections with students, ranging from elementary school to college, in the Ogden community!
Within hours of arriving in Ogden, our education team and the Meshugene Quartet from Midwest Young Artists in the Chicago-area kicked things off by visiting with a group of students, grades 3 through 5, involved in WSU’s Strings Project: an after-school orchestra program that is part of a national initiative by the American String Teachers Association. The quartet gave a stunning performance of diverse repertoire, including Haydn, Shostakovich, and Grieg. Their coach Allan Dennis talked about the important musical aspects, giving the audience a “listening guide” for each piece. The group also shared some of their favorite ways to practice together as a group – check out the video below!
At the end of the program, the audience had some great questions, ranging from “How many hours a day do you practice?” to “What’s your favorite type of pie?” Many of the students stayed afterwards to meet with the performers one-on-one.
The next day just before From the Top’s dress rehearsal, our producer Tim Banker met with WSU students who manage the school’s radio station, KWCR 88.1, to explore what makes good radio. Providing handouts with sample stories and characters, Tim challenged the students to determine which would make the most compelling story within a From the Top program. He talked about how our show strives to bring to life these young performers’ memories and experiences. Check out the video below to hear some of what he shared:
The day after the taping, we traveled with four of our performers to Mt. Ogden Junior High School, where we met with a class of music students in grades 6 through 8. Gathered on the school auditorium’s stage, these kids got a “sneak peek” of the show, with each performer playing a piece that had been featured the night before. Our performers also shared a range of personal insights, from struggles with finding the motivation to practice to what had first inspired them to pursue classical music.
Stay tuned for more exciting stories about our community outreach efforts on the road!
Curtain call at Carnegie's Zankel Hallphoto by Julien Jourdes
We taped a show last week in the heart of the Big Apple at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall for a an audience packed with music teachers from all over the US. The teachers were in town for the Music Teacher’s National Association convention, and as you might expect, they made for a wonderfully enthusiastic audience!
Opening the show was 17-year-old violinist Madi Vest who played Franz Waxman’s “Carmen Fantasie.” She’s a serious violinist, wholeheartedly intent on pursuing a career in music, and her expressive style of playing really engaged the crowd.
Following Madi was a very young guitarist, 13-year-old Ashwin Krishna, who beautifully played “Sunburst” by Andrew York and talked with Christopher O’Riley about how he manages to balance school, music, Boy Scouts, and sports.
Next up was a phenomenal piano quartet from New York City who call themselves the Lapis Quartet. They passionately played the finale from Brahms’ Piano Quartet No. 1 and talked about their history of having heated arguments in Chinese (the problem is, only three of the four quartet members speak Chinese)!
18-year-old Karen Baumgartner was up next playing a mesmerizing piece for solo flute called “Image” by Eugene Bozza. It’s always interesting to hear a musician play solo without accompaniment and Karen didn’t disappoint. She also was in for a surprise after the played when her twin sister, who could not be in the live audience that day, called in to the show to congratulate her.
For the grand finale, 18-year-old pianist Quinn Gomez took the stage to play a dynamic piece called “Butterflies and Bobcats” written by contemporary Canadian composer David McIntyre.
And now, for you viewing pleasure, enjoy this sneak peek of all of the performances taken the night before at our music rehearsal – and make sure to tune in when the show airs the week of April 30!
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