From the Top Takes Aspen by Storm

As the thunder subsided and the rainclouds parted high above the Aspen Music Festival grounds on August 4, a phenomenal double rainbow appeared over Harris Concert Hall, just as the last ticket-buyers were hurrying in to the hall to see From the Top’s live taping.

Thanks to generous support from the Sidney E. Frank Foundation, From the Top took up residency at the Aspen Music Festival and School earlier this month with a whirlwind of activities, including auditions, an alumni picnic, a live radio taping, an arts leadership orientation workshop and outreach event, and special events for our donors and board members. Every summer, hundreds of serious young musicians from across the United States, including approximately 60 From the Top alumni, come to Aspen to immerse themselves in their musical studies, making a natural setting for our continued collaborations with Aspen Music Festival.

Shortly after arriving in the beautiful mountain village, our recruitment team immediately set up for a full day of auditions. We saw some of the stars of tomorrow’s From the Top episodes!

Sterling Elliot at Music Rehearsal in AspenLater that day, we met up with the performers who would be appearing on our taping on Sunday for a pizza party and music rehearsal. This show featured eight performers, including four alumni who have graced From the Top stages before – which made for a particularly rousing and fun music rehearsal and pizza party on Saturday night. Adria Ye’s mom Rui Wang even noted that this was her third pizza party with us!

Left, Sterling Elliott (Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist), 14, rehearses the third movement, Introduction: Andante – Allegro Vivace from the Cello Concerto in D minor by Édouard Lalo.

 88More than 50 From the Top alumni, parents, board members, and supporters gathered for a picnic lunch on Sunday, including soprano Lauren Criddle, now age 30, who was featured on our very first show, taped at Tanglewood in Lenox, Massachusetts in 1999, as well as 13-year-old violinist Maya Buchanan who will appear on our next taping in Vermillion, South Dakota. It was our third time hosting an alumni gathering while in Aspen.

 284Above, alumni pose for a picture at the picnic.

Then it was time to rehearse and tape our radio show in Aspen Music Festival’s Harris Hall. This was our third show in Aspen in six years and we were thrilled when the enthusiastic audience erupted in thunderous applause for each of the performances.

Left, Colton Peltier performs “Feux Follets” from Transcendental Etude No.5 in B-flat major by Franz Liszt.

Leadership pathwaysThe next day, the show performers took part in an Arts Leadership Orientation Workshop, conducted by our Education and Outreach department. The kids were led through a variety of exercises to help them discover the myriad leadership pathways open to them as artists.

Above, performer Jiacheng Xiong’s Leadership Portrait from the Arts Leadership Orientation Workshop.

1011570_10151787605183606_1197624193_n Later that day, they had a chance to put what they had learned into action when they performed a surprise pop-up performance at the playground of the Yellow Brick School for the students at the Early Learning Center.

Left, Sterling Elliott, Austin Huntington, and Haruno Sato with the kids from the Early Learning Center in Aspen.

That evening, a reception in support of From the Top was held at the Aspen home of Lynda and Doug Weiser, who hosted along with Cathy and Peter Halstead and From the Top Director Elaine LeBuhn and her husband Robert. IMG_0296More than 50 of our friends and donors enjoyed performances by alumni 12-year-old pianist Avery Gagliano, 19-year-old cellist Nathan Chan, 20-year-old violinist Nora Scheller, and host Christopher O’Riley. Guests included From the Top Overseer Kate Bermingham, Tom and Vivian Waldeck, and 19-year-old alum Colton Peltier.

Right, hosts Lynda & Doug Weiser, Elaine LeBuhn, and Peter & Cathy Halstead at the reception.

See more pictures from the weekend here.

Be sure to tune in to hear the Aspen episode the week of September 16!

Alum Stephen Feigenbaum Combines Theatrical Spectacle and Classical Music in ABYSS

In 2007, when composer Stephen Feigenbaum appeared on From the Top Show 152 at the age of 18, his piece “Serenade for Strings” was performed by a string quintet made up of local students. Later, the piece was was recorded by the Cincinnati Pops for the From the Top CD release “From the Top at the Pops!” He is now the talented composer of the well-received musical Independents and his newest musical, The Abyss, opens tonight.

Since being on the show, Stephen majored in music at Yale University and he is currently pursuing his master’s degree at the Yale School of Music. He has received a multitude of awards, which include the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award, winner of the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble competition, and, most recently, winner of the Albany Symphony Orchestra’s “Composer to Center Stage” young artist competition. Aside appearing on From the Top, Stephen has also performed on The Martha Stewart Show and NBC’s The Sing-Off.

Last summer, the original musical Independents, with music penned by Stephen, premiered at the New York Fringe Festival and received the coveted honor of Best Overall Production. The musical follows a group of teenage slackers living on a Revolutionary War-era tall ship in a coming of age story about friendship, late-night sing-alongs, and Revolutionary War-era fashion. The musical received rave reviews: read more about it on The Huffington Post and The New York Times, or get the story straight from the creative team on their Kickstarter page.

Stephen has built upon the idea of musical storytelling in his musical, The Abyss. Stephen says: “What I was really interested in was how something like a Beethoven symphony was able, about 200 years ago, to reach a massive amount of people, and I was really interested in finding a model that would allow this kind of music, which people are still writing today and which is really important to me, to reach people in this kind of visceral way that matches other kinds of entertainment that are popular today.” Stephen, along with his partner and director, Charlie Polinger, has integrated classical music into a theatrical presentation that explores a 21st century imagining of the end of the world with an ensemble of musicians, dancers, and actors. Set in an abandoned storefront, the team uses the space to assist in provoking their audience’s imagination, inviting them to participate in the theatrical experience.

A Kickstarter page for The Abyss launched on December 7th, 2012 and they reached their funding goal on December 31st, 2012. From the Top congratulates Stephen and the cast and crew of The Abyss for their hard work and creative innovation.

The Abyss premiers on March 28th and will run until March 31st at 278 Park Street in downtown New Haven, Connecticut. Tickets are free on a first-come first-served basis. For more information, visit or

Making Peer Connections in Davis!

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!

Coming Soon: The Blount-Slawson Young Artists Competition

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.

This Friday! Chicago Alumni Perform to Support the Orphans of Japan

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.

From the Top Alums are YouTube Symphony Finalists!

We are really excited to announce that multiple From the Top alums have made it to the final round of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra! Voting ends tomorrow so please click over and vote for our alums (links below).

The YouTube Symphony Orchestra is a global endeavor devoted to sharing the love of music and celebrating humanity’s vast creative diversity. Musicians selected to perform in the orchestra will be invited to Sydney, Australia in March, 2011 where they will work with world-renowned conductor Michael Tilson Thomas and receive coaching by leading musicians from the world’s top orchestras.

Click on the finalists’ names below to see their YouTube Symphony audition and vote for them.

Good luck to all of our finalists! Remember, voting ends tomorrow, December 17,  so get your votes in now!

Alum Clifton Williams Performs in Boston

From the Top alum and Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Clifton Williams will give a performance in Boston next week! You may remember this young pianist from Show 195 in Boston in March 2009, where he performed Suggestion Diabolique by Sergei Prokofiev.

Clifton performs on From the Top

Next Monday Clifton will join the Berklee College of Music’s Reverance Gospel Ensemble and renowned gospel organist Dennis Montgomery, III for a special concert. Mr. Montgomery has given Clifton the opportunity to provide an organ solo – one that he’s been doing himself for the past ten years!


December 13th, 8:15pm
Berklee Performance Center
136 Massachusetts Avenue
Boston, MA 02115-2602

“The Power of the Anointed”
Gospel music featuring the college’s Reverence Gospel Ensemble, OverJoyed, Women of Virtue, and Men of Valor.

Tickets: $10

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