The Iowa Makes Music Residency Draws to a Close

For the past three years From the Top has partnered with Orchestra Iowa (formerly Cedar Rapids Symphony Orchestra) to celebrate the excitement and joy of kids making classical music through Iowa Makes Music, a multi-faceted residency funded by the United States Department of Education.

Since the fall of 2008, the Iowa Makes Music (IMM) project has encompassed a number of live events and education programs. This included From the Top radio tapings in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Iowa City, Ames, and Cedar Falls, dozens of school visits led by Iowa teens, and classroom tools for Iowa teachers. A large part of the residency has also included the IMM Arts Leadership program, which has provided a yearly cohort of high school age classical musicians with intensive arts leadership training and one-on-one mentorship. Our aim has been to empower students to develop and lead their own arts leadership project in their home communities, and the resulting music outreach and community service has been overwhelming!

The Kennedy Quartet did music outreach in a local middle school.

As the long-term Iowa residency draws to a close, the IMM Arts Leadership program finished a fantastic spring of community service and music with a final celebration in Amana, Iowa. The 2011 arts leaders even braved tornadoes in the area to share their arts leadership journeys with friends and family! The evening was filled with food (including musically-inspired cupcakes), family, friends, and fantastic displays of each outreach project. In short, it was a perfect evening.

Music note cupcakes!

Check out this year’s projects on the Iowa Makes Music blog.

Congratulations to all for a fantastic spring, and for a wonderful three years!

Alum Bryanne Presley Performs with Simon Estes!

Bryanne and Simon Estes

From the Top Alum Bryanne Presley, oboist from Nevada, Iowa, participated in two performances with renowned opera singer Simon Estes as part of his Roots and Wings tour. The Roots and Wings tour has a goal to provide outreach to all ninety-nine counties in Iowa and raise funds for the Simon Estes Iowa Educational Foundation, which provides college scholarships to outstanding students.

Bryanne states, “I enjoy performing for others and knowing that my performance impacts others of all ages. After the performances, I was greeted kindly with praising comments from people who did not know what an oboe was or have even heard it played well. I am honored to be able to share the singing sounds of the oboe with others.”

Simon Estes was present at the “From the Top” Show #216 recorded in Ames, IA where Bryanne was performing. After the performance, Simon asked Bryanne and another Iowan on the show, Caroline Weeks, to perform with him on his Roots and Wings tour. Bryanne performed on October 30, 2010 in Vinton, Iowa (Benton County), and again on November 13, 2010 in Manning, Iowa (Carroll County).

Simon Estes: Arts Leader

Simon Estes is a perfect example of a true Arts Leader. This Iowa native and world-renowned opera singer has established not only a school in South Africa for some of the continent’s poorest children, but also the Simon Estes Iowa Educational Foundation, “a multiracial, nonprofit organization that provides positive minority role model programs and scholarships to students attending Iowa colleges and universities.”

His latest project is the “Wings and Roots” tour, where he’s pledged to present concerts in each of Iowa’s 99 counties.

“I want to share the gift of voice God has given me and give something back. I want to introduce audiences to classical music and a trained voice, and I want to raise funds to provide scholarships for outstanding students. The cost of college is high and many families need help. I know when I was young, I struggled. I scrubbed floors, shined shoes, carried luggage and anything I could do. I want to help young people because I believe in the value and importance of education,” Estes said.

Simon attended our From the Top Show #216 in Ames, Iowa this spring, where he met From the Top alums Caroline Weeks (viola) and Bryanne Presley (obeo), both of whom he ultimately ended up inviting to join him to perform at several concerts this fall! So far Bryanne is scheduled to perform with Simon on October 30 in Vinton, Iowa, and November 13 in Manning, Iowa.  Caroline will be performing with him this December. Stay tuned, as we’ll post more information about those concerts as we get it.

Bryanne on From the Top in Ames, Iowa


Caroline on From the Top in Ames, Iowa

From the Top is taping the next Iowa show in Davenport on October 12 at 8pm. If you’re in the area, come on down and grab a seat in the Adler Theater. Tickets & info here.

Giving Back Through Music in Iowa – Part I

For the past two years, From the Top and Orchestra Iowa have collaborated on a project called Iowa Makes Music. One component of this residency is our Arts Leadership program, which provides high school age classical musicians with intensive arts leadership training and one-on-one mentoring to help them develop and lead their own music-inspired service projects in their home communities.  We are so impressed with the hard work that our participants have put into their projects. Here’s just one example:

Thomas Burrill, Freshman

When you hear the words “Alzheimer’s Benefit Concert,” you wouldn’t normally think of two high schoolers.  But this year Thomas Burrill (who’s father died over a year ago of the disease) and his friend Linda Xiong have been toiling over an intense project – producing a classical music concert and raising $5,000 for the University of Iowa’s Alzheimer’s research.

This dynamic duo teamed up a couple of months ago and charged full speed ahead with creating an exciting concert and raising $$$.  First order of business? They got the Englert Theater (where From the Top taped a show!) to donate space for the concert.  With one win in the bag, Thomas and Linda set out to create marketing materials, find sponsors, and raise money.

Linda Xiong, Sophomore

The final results? Over 130 concert attendees, 16 sponsors, and $5300 in donations – they surpassed their goal!  One concert-goer came up to Thomas after the show and thanked him for setting an example for “all the folks, young and old, in Iowa”

Linda posted some great clips from the concert and you can read more about how they made this project a success on the Iowa Makes Music blog.

Check back later to hear about some more projects from Iowa youth musicians!

Arts Leadership in Ames, Iowa

From the Top isn’t just about broadcasting phenomenal music.  An integral part of our program is the Arts Leadership Orientation, which follows every performance. What’s that, you ask? The performers gather with From the Top’s Education staff after the show to reflect on their experiences – what were they thinking before the show started? What were their favorite moments during broadcast? How are they feeling now that it’s over? This isn’t just a communication exercise; it really helps the performers bond with each other over their shared experience. And at From the Top, we’re all about growing community!

Aside from the reflection piece, the kids also get to learn more about From the Top’s mission of service and our Arts Leadership program.  As you read from Anna DeLoi’s blog, this can inspire the young musicians to take their talents to the next level and help others around them!

Check out the shout out video below, directed by the performers of Show #216. This group of kids aptly named themselves “Show Awesome” and in a quick 16 seconds you can tell how much fun they had with each other!

After the Great Flood: Iowa Makes Music

Last June, From the Top Tour Producer David Balsom was preparing to visit Cedar Rapids, Iowa to plan out a yearlong residency program with Orchestra Iowa when he received a frantic email from the symphony’s executive director. “The email said flood waters are coming, we’re evacuating, don’t come.”

“I thought it was most likely the end of the project,” said Balsom, referring to the Iowa Makes Music program piloted by From the Top this year. Over the course of the past nine-months this residency has integrated broadcast tapings of the NPR show with educational outreach programs, curriculum development and peer leadership trainings for teens to generate increased enthusiasm and participation in classical music throughout the state of Iowa.

Yet in June 2008 the likelihood that this ambitious program would get off the ground was grim.
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