In Brighton, MA, Teen Leaders Make Chamber Music Personal

For the past three years, From the Top has enjoyed a partnership with Conservatory Lab Charter School in Brighton, Massachusetts. Conservatory Lab is the only music-infused public elementary school in the state and provides all students free vocal and instrumental instruction. However, the students at Conservatory Lab don’t have access to playing in small ensembles, so for the past two years, young musicians from our Center for the Development of Arts Leaders (CDAL) have conducted chamber music residencies at Conservatory Lab. CDAL is From the Top’s arts leadership program in Boston, with trains young musicians to be active leaders in their communities.

The most recent week-long residency paired a CDAL arts leader with a Conservatory Lab student, with whom they worked exclusively. Aside from learning an entire piece — The Art of Fugue, BWV 1080, Contrapunctus I, by J. S. Bach — the CDAL arts leaders and Conservatory Lab students explored the unique lessons that chamber music can teach: leadership, teamwork, and focus. Gabriel, a young clarinetist, explains: “I learned that you don’t have to rely on a conductor, but that you have to listen to every one else when you are playing chamber music.”

While the lessons on dynamics and cueing were valuable, Kat Jara, the Conservatory Lab students’ teacher, says the one-on-one attention — having one mentor dedicated to each Conservatory Lab student, checking in on their bow holds and being a “musical friend” — makes all the difference. The effect on the Conservatory Lab students isn’t truly realized until a few weeks after the residency, she says, when their confidence grows and their self-esteem skyrockets.



The weeklong residency culminated in a side-by-side performance of their chamber work for their friends. After all their hard work, the students were all very nervous to perform, but they prevailed. Nora, a young cellist, said it best: “It was kind of scary, but in the end, when everybody clapped, it felt good!”

Congratulations to the performers from Conservatory Lab: 

Mira Mehta, violin — 6th grade

Gabriel Joachin, clarinet  — 4th grade

Nora Feeney, cello  — 6th grade

Tess Lepeska-True, cello — 4th grade

Antwanai Miller, viola — 6th grade

Angelo Beauvois, cello — 4th grade

And to their teachers from the CDAL Boston program: 

Lilia Chang, violin

Nicholas Gallitano, viola

Changyoung (Calvin) Kim, clarinet

Leland Ko, cello

Ju Hyun Lee, cello

Reaching Out in Carmel, IN


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.

Continue reading

From the Top Inspires an Abilene Elementary School Radio Project

Yesterday we recorded an episode of From the Top in Abilene, Texas, which will air the week of December 27. Our presence in the town actually inspired 2nd and 4th grade classes at Allie Ward Elementary School to put on their own radio project! You can listen to the podcast about this production by Zane Goggans from KACU here.

This semester Cynthia Ladyman’s 2nd grade class was focused on 1940’s history and culture – World War II, clothing, speech, and classical music. She thought a radio production like From the Top would be a fun and creative way to bring all of this learning together. Each member of her class was given a specific role to play – writers, reporters, production team, actors, etc, and along with the help of a 4th grade class, these kids put on a special radio project that included three talent groups from the school, a choir, vignettes, and a commercial for the school’s library.

In order to prepare, these students visited the KACU radio studios (the From the Top presenter in Abilene) to see how radio works in real life.

Ms. Ladyman says, “It came up that [the school board] didn’t think second graders could do this, but I said yes we can, and so we have worked very hard to do that!”

This project is a great example of how classical music and radio can be interesting to kids of all ages. “I think kids value what the teachers and parents value, and I think they need to be exposed early [to classical music],” Ms. Ladyman said in an interview with KACU.

This hands-on production was a challenge for the kids because it was so writing intensive and involved a lot of preparation, but as you can hear in the podcast, they seemed to really enjoy it!

DBR’s Work with Boston Schools

We just got a neat update from composer Daniel Bernard Roumain (aka DBR).  A few weeks ago we featured a blog he wrote on Musical Diplomacy and Good, Long Hugs.  These days he’s been collaborating with the Boston Pops to work with young musicians in Boston area schools.  Check out this video for an overview of his educational philosophy (and some really cool uses of the violin).

Education Update: Check out our Crews

New York Crew in New Jersey

Brian Ge (left) and Patricio Molina (top) at the Belmont Runyan School

Brian Ge (left) and Patricio Molina (top) at the Belmont Runyan School

We just wrapped up another year in our partnership with Young Audiences New Jersey (YANJ) to bring From the Top alums into Newark schools through a grant from the Prudential Foundation. In addition to implementing a Make Your Own Radio Show program in three schools, we started a new program called “From the Top Times Two”. This new program includes a one-day, two-visit performance and workshop for the schools, with a From the Top alum accompanied by a YANJ teaching artist. From the Top recruited five New York area alums, including Brian Ge, Patricio Molina, Dasha Bukhartseva, Hannah Ji, Julian Langford, and co-led a one-day training session with YANJ staff to prepare the young musicians for their school performances.

This pilot program reached 4 Newark schools this spring and was a huge success among teachers, students and performers alike. Continue reading

At Epiphany School Cellist Shares Music and Encourages Students to Explore Own Gifts

Cellist Sebastian Baverstam speaks with Epiphany School Headmaster John Finley following a From the Top program at the school.

Cellist Sebastian Baverstam speaks with Epiphany School Headmaster following a From the Top program at the school.

On April 8th, 2009, 20-year-old  Sebastian Baverstam visited the Epiphany School in Dorchester, MA to lead a morning assembly for 6th-8th grade students. Sebastian, a cellist currently in his sophomore year at New England Conservatory, first appeared on From the Top at age 10 and continues to stay involved with From the Top through our Boston Crew, which involves alumni in leading music outreach programs in Massachusetts schools.

During the assembly, Sebastian showed the students all the different sounds the cello can make from singing like the human voice to strumming like a guitar. He played a wide range of music including a serene Bach prelude and the energetic and intensely physical Kodaly Sonata. He even performed one of his own compositions. The students were invited to explore their own imaginations and share any imagery that came to mind while listening.

One student said, “What I liked most in the program is that when he played the songs, I could picture in my mind what I could describe the music as.”

Another remarked about From the Top, ““I liked that children get to showcase their talents to the public.” Continue reading

Karl Paulnack to the Boston Conservatory Freshman Class

Dr. Karl Paulnack, pianist and director of music division at The Boston Conservatory, gave this fantastic welcome address to the  parents of incoming students at The Boston Conservatory on September 1, 2004:

Karl Paulnack

Karl Paulnack

“One of my parents’ deepest fears, I suspect, is that society would not properly value me as a musician, that I wouldn’t be appreciated. I had very good grades in high school, I was good in science and math, and they imagined that as a doctor or a research chemist or an engineer, I might be more appreciated than I would be as a musician. I still remember my mother’s remark when I announced my decision to apply to music school-she said, “you’re wasting your SAT scores!” On some level, I think, my parents were not sure themselves what the value of music was, what its purpose was. And they loved music: they listened to classical music all the time. They just weren’t really clear about its function. So let me talk about that a little bit, because we live in a society that puts music in the “arts and entertainment” section of the newspaper, and serious music, the kind your kids are about to engage in, has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with entertainment, in fact it’s the opposite of entertainment. Let me talk a little bit about music, and how it works. Continue reading

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