The Wallis Hosts From The Top

In March, 2020 GRoW @ The Wallis hosted the NPR radio program “From The Top.”  “From The Top” is a non-profit organization dedicated to celebrating the stories, talents, and character of young classically-trained musicians.  The partnership was made possible thank to generous support from Gregory Weingarten and GRoW @ Annenberg.

The week began on Tuesday, March 3, 2020 when the student musicians and From The Top team arrived at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.  Our co-hosts for the program included renowned artists, pianist and From The Top alum Peter Dugan and Los Angeles-based violinist Vijay Gupta.  Vijay had hosted a prior From The Top program at another venue (and also performed just weeks prior a wonderful classical program at The Wallis) and brought with him his wonderful local connection and dedication to Los Angeles. 

The student musicians were:

10-year-old pianist Olivia Larco from Pasadena, California performing Chopin’s Étude Op.25 no.11, “Winter Wind.”

The Los Angeles Children’s Chorus (Fernando Malvar-Ruiz, Artistic Director), performing “Pueri Herbraeorum” by Randall Thompson and “Over the Rainbow” by Harold Arlen, arranged by Mark Hayes.

17-year-old cellist Mei Hotta from Torrance, California performing Piano Trio, III. Capricious by Reena Esmail with Peter Dugan, piano and Vijay Gupta, violin.

14-year-old violinist Bianca Ciubancan from Chicago, Illinois performing Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 7 in F Major, from 21 Hungarian Dances, WoO 1 with host Peter Dugan.

The Quantum Saxophone Quartet from Dallas, Texas performing Marcelo Zarvos’ “Memory” from Nepomuk’s Dances. The quartet features: GianCarlo Lay, 16, from Carrollton, Texas, recipient of From the Top’s Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award; Ekdev Rajkitkul, 17, from Frisco, Texas, recipient of From the Top’s Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award; Austin Dreyer, 18, from Carrollton, Texas and Peyton Joffre, 18, from Carrollton, Texas.

The taping of the live radio program in the Bram Goldsmith Theater on Wednesday evening was fantastic.  We had a supportive and enthusiastic live audience of 238 to experience these amazing young musicians and learn about each of them through engaging interviews with the co-hosts.

In addition to providing a national platform to share their talent, From The Top provides extensive support to the students to help them think about their larger role in service to their communities and what it means to make a meaningful life in music. The week at The Wallis and with the GRoW department provided a special immediate opportunity for the students to apply these ideas. 

The Wallis hosted a student matinee performance Thursday morning during which the From The Top young musicians worked with the co-hosts to design the student matinee and consider some important questions, such as:  What do we want the attending students to come away with? What messages do we want to send? How should the concert be structured? How much discussion should take place between each piece?

Student Matinee Participating Schools:

  • Alliance College Ready Middle Academy in Boyle Heights
  • Stevenson Middle School in East Los Angeles
  • Horace Mann Elementary in Beverly Hills
  • Good Shepherd Catholic School in Beverly Hills
  • Alliance Neuwirth Leadership Academy (high school) in South Los Angeles
  • Carlos Santana Arts Academy (elementary) in North San Fernando Valley

The student matinee was a big hit, drawing a crowd of 480! The students in the audience (ages 8 to 18 in grades 3 through 12) were excited to see and witness the extraordinary talents of musicians their own ages on stage.  Throughout the show, the co-hosts turned to the student audience to pose questions and offer their own reflections.  At one point, Vijay Gupta shared that music can be a source of comfort when we go through a difficult time.  He asked if anyone in the audience had had that experience.  A young girl in middle school shared that her mother had become blind soon after she was born.  Through her tears, she shared how hard it has been for her to help take care of her family.  When she finished her story, the other students in the audience applauded and shared their support and admiration of her courage. After the student matinee Thursday morning, we gathered with the From the Top team and student musicians for final reflections and goodbyes, where the students and their parents shared their appreciation for this remarkable opportunity

The success of the From the Top performance illustrates a much larger and ongoing objective of The Wallis: to connect audiences with the very best in the performing arts. The Wallis uses the power of the arts to build community and address pressing social issues, and work to respond to critical needs in the greater community through arts leadership, collaboration and partnership. Through our supporters, The Wallis has been able to share the arts with learners of all ages, and explore how young musicians can utilize their artistry beyond traditional performance settings. It is our hope that this experience will stay with the performers and audiences forever as they continue to grow as people.

Upcoming Broadcast:

From the Top, distributed by NPR, is broadcast on more than 220 stations nationwide to an audience of nearly half a million listeners. From the Top is also considered the most popular one-hour weekly syndicated classical program on public radio. The broadcast of the live Wallis performance will air on participating NPR stations including KUSC radio here in LA (which is the largest classical music station in the US and has 700,000+ weekly listeners on their FM station and digital channels!), as well as on the From the Top podcast, in September 2020. We are incredibly excited that these remarkable young performers will be able to inspire so many music lovers of all ages!