Organist Brings Music to Kids in Nebraska

When David von Behren attended From the Top's Arts Leadership Orientation Workshop following his appearance on the radio show, he was inspired to pursue a childhood dream of creating a music camp for young children.

David von Behren is one accomplished young man. Not only did the 19-year-old organist receive From the Top's Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award, enabling him to travel to college auditions and organ workshops, he performed on a vintage Wyler Mighty Wurlitzer Pipe Organ for From the Top's show taped in El Paso in June of 2013.

Now, he's paying it forward. His summer music program aims to fill the void of musical opportunities for pre-school children in his hometown of Falls City, Nebraska. In 2013, the inaugural year of his program, he introduced 20 youngsters and their families to the fun and excitement of classical music.

"As a very young child growing up in Falls City, I had always wanted to attend a local music camp. Unfortunately, there aren't any music programs for young children in our area. From the Top's Arts Leadership Orientation Workshop provided knowledge and tools for me to start a local summer music program, providing children ages 3 to 6 with lessons on piano and string instruments. Classical music has entered 20 homes because of my program. Thanks to From the Top's support and inspiration, my childhood dream has become a success and will continue for years to come!"

During the three-week program, David began each day by playing different classical music recordings as the children were dropped off for class, introducing the kids to works from Rachmaninoff to Mozart and from Beethoven to John Williams. He encouraged his young students to unleash their creativity with surprising results; one of his 5-year-old students told him she was certain that Bach wrote the the first movement of his Partita No. 3 in E Major, BWV1006, for a ballerina!

With the help of his mother, he gave small group lessons on both piano and strings. David says he quickly learned that the smaller the group, the quicker the children picked up on the concepts. He was also impressed by the speed in which they learned his basic music theory lessons.

"It was absolutely amazing how quickly this age group soaked up the concepts I presented to them each day. I made huge music theory flashcard posters, and their memory retention from one session to the next was beyond what I expected."

David says his favorite part, though, was giving the kids conducting lessons. After teaching the children to conduct a four-part pattern with a pencil, he presented each child with their very own conducting baton. All of the youngsters then took turns conducting to the recording of John Williams' "Olympic Fanfare and Theme."

One of the biggest takeaways David learned was to never underestimate the creativity of children where music is concerned.

"My students absorbed music like sponges, and this project helped me to achieve my goal to get parents and children excited about classical music.  I am so thankful to From the Top for guiding me through this amazing experience."