What Would Beethoven Do?

We would like to think that if Beethoven arrived in the 21st century, hearing magically restored, he would see the performers on From the Top as a sign of the invigorated future for classical music, full of passion, humor, and music that defies labels. He’d see the music schools and programs that we visit around the country as we do, as pockets of concentrated energy surrounding classical music. For example, on our recent trip to the Aspen Music Festival and School, where hundreds of young musicians gather to learn and perform the music that they love so dearly, we imagined Beethoven strolling along past the quaint wooden practice rooms listening to the strains of piano, flute, violin and more filling the fresh mountain air. I have a hard time imagining in that setting that anyone would be concerned for the future of classical music.

Enter Here Comes Treble Productions, a documentary film crew that believes that there are many individuals and organizations out there doing great things to propel classical music forward. Their film, What Would Beethoven Do? shares the stories of people like Benjamin Zander, who is building the next generation of classical musicians in the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra; Eric Whitacre, who is bringing classical music into the digital age with his Virtual Youth Choir; Bobby McFerrin, who is challenging audiences with performances filled with fun and humor; and many more people who are doing amazing things with classical music.

The film so closely relates to what From the Top is interested in that we had to see what these guys were all about. They followed us around on our taping in Aspen and talked with some of the performers on our show, as well as our host, Christopher O’Riley, who is at the forefront of bringing classical music to new audiences. Here’s hoping we might help make the film that much better!

Check out their trailer below and let us know what you think Beethoven would do in the 21st century!

What Would Beethoven Do? | New Documentary Teaser from What Would Beethoven Do on Vimeo.

From the Top Alum on Good Morning America on Thursday, May 1!

UPDATE! Here’s the clip of Yuki on GMA this morning. We had so much fun and are so proud of Yuki!

Tune in to Good Morning America between 7:30–8:00 AM on Thursday, May 1, to see From the Top alum Yuki Beppu talk about Lady Gaga, classical music, and how she is on a mission to put them together!

Here’s Yuki’s amazing video mash-up of Lady Gaga and her own music:

From the Top goes Mobile!

We are pleased to announce the release of From the Top’s new iPhone app! Powered by Instant Encore, the mobile tool gives fans up-to-the minute access to From the Top’s podcasts, videos, radio show clips, news updates, concert listings and more. The application is available through the iTunes store and requires users to create an account with Instant Encore.

Instant Encore is committed to keeping classical music vital and accessible to the audience of today and tomorrow while providing organizations and artists with the opportunity to utilize the media model of our time, the Internet. We are thrilled to be partnered with them!

Stay tuned for the release of our Android app later in the fall.

Links we Like: The Silver Lining

This week’s installment of Links we Like is my final here at From the Top. It has been such an honor to share my thoughts and ideas on this blog for the past two months, and an experience I will not soon forget. Wanting to end on a high note (no musical pun intended), we observe two stories that demonstrate the resilience of classical music, and how there is always a “silver lining” to every cloud.

Ahead of the Curve: Despite budget cuts threatening school music programs and organizations across the country, the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Foundation announced the results of its 11th annual “Best Communities for Music Education” survey this past May. 174 school districts made the list who, according to the website, “demonstrate an unwavering commitment to providing music education for their students”. The schools had to score within the 80th percentile or above in the survey to receive the title, with questions pertaining to funding, curriculum, requirements, facilities, etc. To see America’s “Best Communities for Music Education,” click here.

(courtesy Yale.edu)

Putting things into Perspective: In the same vein, many believe our nation’s orchestras are suffering tremendously from financial burden and social reticence. Yet Heather Lynn Mac Donald, fellow at the Manhattan Institute and contributing editor to the New York City Journal, attests that, despite times seeming rough, we are in fact living in a “Golden Age”. Her essay Classical Music’s New Golden Age compares the context of our time with that of Beethoven, Berlioz, etc. to show how conditions for classical musicians have vastly improved over the years. The following quote serves as an example to her case: “Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony premiered before an audience of 100 at most. These days, probably 10,000 people are listening to it during any given 24-hour period, either live or on record…” While Mac Donald believes musicians of the 21st century lead more favorable livelihoods than those of their predecessors, she acknowledges there is still a great deal that must be done to guarantee the future of classical music. She cites the efforts of El Sistema and China’s burgeoning demand for classical music as being “two of the best hopes for building future American audiences,” and  is highly optimistic that the genre will flourish for generations to come. To read the rest of Mac Donald’s essay, click here.

(courtesy EssentialsofMusic.com)

Links we Like: Music for a Better Tomorrow

This week’s Links we Like is one of my last as an intern here at From the Top, so I wanted to take this opportunity to stress the inner strength and beauty of music. This final installment observes the capacity of music to better the lives of others. Whether it be the gift of healing, the advent of new opportunities, or the voice of peace, music has the power to bring our world “a better tomorrow.”

Remember the Time: As loved ones near old age, Alzheimer’s and Dementia become a scary possibility, as they are already a reality for millions worldwide. Yet recent studies conducted in Belgium, Canada, and the United States have found a hopeful solution: music! Emotions are a powerful incendiary for remembering, and most memories related to music have nostalgic connotations. Patients involved in the study were able to evoke melodies, lyrics, and more when moments before they had forgotten where they were or hadn’t been able to speak at all. It was concluded that memory function can in fact be improved through music. To read more on the study and treatment process, click here.

(courtesy health.howstuffworks.com)

Music from the Inside: This summer, Berklee College of Music took on an extraordinary initiative by launching a pilot program for blind and visually impaired students. The five-week program meets four days a week for four hours a day, and is run by two Berklee students (who are also blind). Amenities for the students include state-of-the-art equipment, like high-quality Braille printers, and a redesigned set of curriculum. The summer program consists of five participants who, after two weeks, have already become more acclimated to both the process and environment of their coursework. Berklee hopes the program will provide a more welcoming atmosphere to its growing constituency of blind students as well as serve as an example for other music institutions. To read more about the program and its development, click here.

Trumpeter Wayne Pearcy: one of the five participants in the Summer Pilot Program (courtesy berklee.edu)

The Voice of Peace: For almost a quarter of a century, war has devastated the nation of Uganda. The atrocities have divided its people, and many have fled their former lives with no hopes of return. Yet the women of Northern Uganda have begun to unite in the name of peace through a movement known as The Voice Project. These inspiring women, widows, rape victims, and former abductees, are using the power of song to convey their message. Their lyrics speak of peace and forgiveness, concepts that have long been shadowed by the brutality of war. Vocational training and scholarships are among the provisions of the Voice Project’s participants, as well as rehabilitation program for former soldiers/abductees. A number of mainstream artists have come on board to lend their support and their own music – a powerful component in spreading the message of these brave women. To read more on The Voice Project, click here.

(courtesy of tonic.com)

Links We Like: Shaping the Future of Music

Whether it be performing a benefit concert for charity or simply encouraging others to attend a live performance, the future of music depends on the contribution of those who possess the knowledge and the means. As performers and fans of music, we must adapt a selfless approach to preserve an art form that stands as a vital part of our culture. The following stories are inspiring examples of steps being taken by others doing just that:

Bringing Music to Light: Aside from social networks and online encyclopedias, perhaps the most innovative paradigms for seeking information online are what have been coined as online “think tanks”. One such example is Big Think, a site that draws on the knowledge and opinions of experts via interview to explore their specific fields of study. Recently, the website premiered it’s youngest scholar, Hilda Huang, who just so happens to be a pianist and FTT alum, having made her Carnegie Hall debut on the PBS series “From the Top at Carnegie Hall.” Her presence on this site attests not only to her extraordinary talent, but also to the growing importance of music in our society. To watch Hilda discuss the genius of Bach and her love of music, click here.

Hilda with the Cincinnati Pops, taping the From the Top at the Pops CD (Photo: Mark Lyons)

A Silver Lining: While the majority of stories from Iraq are grim, one story brings hope. Guitarist Nashat Majeed has taken brave steps in the name of music, and teaches lessons twice weekly for Iraqi children 11 to 15 years-old. Under the previous regime, music had been forbidden due to its connection with “Western” ideals. Today that ban has been lifted, but Nashat still faces the dangers of militant violence and sectarian activism. Yet Nashat still continues to teach, as he believes in “ the language of music rather than the language of war.” To read more about Nashat’s story, click here.

Two of Nashat's Students Practicing (courtesy CNN Video)

The Artists of Tomorrow: Since 2006, Fidelity Investments has become a major proponent in arts education through its organization Fidelity FutureStage: a competition designed to promote aspiring instrumentalists and vocalists who would otherwise lack the means. Over two thousand public high schools and middle schools were welcomed to compete from participating cities, and the winners were announced this past May. These students were then given performance opportunities, from performing with the renowned orchestras of Boston, Chicago, and Houston, to playing at the Opening Gala of the LA Hollywood Bowl, to being a party of a fully stage Broadway production in New York. To read more about the program and its students, click here.

Jamie Foxx with FutureStage Students receiving brand new instruments (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Links we Like: Summer, Oh The Possibilities…

This week in Links we Like, we take a glimpse at the abundance of summer’s classical music events occurring across the globe. From a listing of North American summer music festival concerts, to the establishment of a society for music education in Nepal, to a group of nuns from Avignon signing a record deal with one of London’s finest labels, this summer presents a plethora of opportunities for those invested in classical music.

The Summer Hot List: Looking to attend a classical performance this summer, but not sure where to start? Look no further, for the New York Times has compiled a list of summer festival concerts for 25 different states. The list includes program details, visiting artists, and contact/website information for each festival. Click here to find a performance near you.

The Koussevitzky Music Shed at Tanglewood (courtesy Stu Rosner via New York Times)

A New Hope for Teaching in Nepal: Robert Moore, a recent graduate of Baylor University and Fulbright scholarship recipient, has played a major role in establishing a music education network for Nepali teachers and musicians: the Nepal Music Educator’s Society. Robert spent 10 months in Kathmandu (the nation’s capital) establishing music curriculum standards, learning traditional Nepali music, and becoming ingratiated with the existing music community to promote further growth and development. He says on the importance of music education: “…music teaches culture. I also think important values, like leadership and dedication, are taught through music” (via NewsWise). Robert kept a travel blog during his visit, posting updates and photos from his experiences and travels. To learn more about Robert’s visit to Nepal and the society, click here.

Robert Moore and the Madal: Nepal's traditional folk drum

Gregorian Chant the New “Pop”: It seems the prayers of the Benedictine Nuns from the Abbaye de Notre Dame de l’Annonciation have been answered. They just signed a contract with the London-based Decca Records, the same label to sign such artists as U2, Lady Gaga, and Eminem. The group of singing nuns practice 6th century-style Gregorian chant, and lead reclusive lives behind the abbey’s closed doors. They beat over 70 other convents competing for the record deal in the United States, Africa, and Europe, and the album Voice: Chant From Avignon is to be released this November. Read more about the record deal and nuns here.

(courtesy of news.myjoyonline.com)

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