Alumni in Action: Making a Difference During a Difficult Time

Here at From the Top, we’ve used this time to check in on our extended family of alumni. We have been delighted to receive updates from many alumni who have inventively shifted their work to help others during this pandemic. Their leadership is inspiring. Many others are calling on musical projects to offer hope and joy, using their talents to bring people together.

Today launches the first column with news from our alumni community. Alumni: if you have a project to share, please write us.

Michelle Tang is an intern at PhysioQ working on strategy and product development. She writes: “I would love to share more about the nonprofit, PhysioQ, I’m currently working with that is using health-technology to help fight COVID-19.

physioQ imageIn an effort to aid in the fight against the COVID-19 global pandemic, non-profit PhysioQ has just launched NEO, a free at-home solution that allows families to self-monitor their health together using affordable wearable devices. Individuals can proactively track their vital signs—such as SpO2, heart rate, body temperature, etc.—on their mobile phone in real time.

In providing people with the ability to have selected friends and family monitor their health status, we can help provide peace of mind to families who are feeling anxious, powerless, and isolated from each other. For those able to get appointments with doctors, NEO will also provide them with the ability to share their health data with clinicians, allowing for effective remote monitoring and swift intervention when necessary.

PhysioQ has also launched one of the largest COVID-19 Databanks in the world, open to all health researchers to accelerate research into COVID-19. Researchers from across North America, from Harvard to UC Berkeley, have already committed to joining the efforts. Everyone using PhysioQ services has the option to donate their data to the Databank if they wish.” Learn more.

Violinist Ryan Meehan writes, “I’ve been especially concerned about my students’ summer festival plans falling through due to Covid-19. Thus, I’ve spent the past month or so brainstorming about how I could help.” Ryan is a member of the Calidore String Quartet, recipient of an Avery Fisher Career Grant, a Borletti-Buitoni Trust Fellowship, Lincoln Center Emerging Artist Award and is a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist. He is also a member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

Ryan and fellow FTT alum Stella Chen, along with colleagues from the Emerson and Calidore Quartets and pedagogues such as Almita Vamos and Danielle Belen want to help fill the gap for talented young musicians who are not able to continue their musical studies in summer music programs this year.

They are launching Virtuosi Virtual Summer Academy and are currently recruiting applicants ages 8-24.
Learn more about how to apply.

Pianist Ophir Horowitz was inspired to launch H.O.P.E: Harmonies of Pianists Everywhere:
“Amidst these precarious times, community is more essential, more powerful, than ever before. Through collaborative performances uniting pianists from across the nation, we hope our community of musicians at H.O.P.E. can transmit joy and comfort to yours—transcendent of physical separation. We give pianists
opportunities to participate in collaborative videos—in which each person records a few measures of a well-known, soothing work, and we combine these excerpts into one coherent video to post to our website, Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram.” Check out the moving videos.

Yurie Mitsuhashi is helping immigrant communities during the Covid19 pandemic.

Yurie MitsuhashiShe says: “I am currently a concertmaster violinist in The Orchestra Now (TON). With support from TON and with help from several of our colleagues, we are putting together a virtual benefit concert on Sunday, May 17th, at 1pm. We are putting this performance together to help raise funds for our local immigration aid organization, the Columbia County Sanctuary Movement in Hudson, NY.

They have created a fund called the “Mano A Mano Mutual Aid Fund” put together to aid immigrant individuals and families who are affected financially by COVID-19, and yet are ineligible for any government funded aid. Our hope is to raise awareness as well as donations through our viewership.

Check out the livestream Sunday, May 17 at:

LaMont Barlow is a doctor of urology and an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Urology and Pathology at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, but continues to play bassoon in his spare time. He writes:

“One of my favorite aspects of music has always been chamber music, especially woodwind quintets. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the first time I played the Hindemith quintet in high school (in my hometown quintet and again at Interlochen, both on bassoon). It has always been one of my favorite pieces, although it’s not for everyone.LaMont Barlow

Once COVID started gaining momentum, I found myself with more time at home and started to see people doing collaborative and solo chamber musical projects with mixing apps like Acapella. I’ve always wanted to do something like this, so a couple months ago I decided to learn the first movement of the Hindemith because it has always been one of my favorite quintets (and the horn part is a bit simpler…I was never really much of a brass player).”

Watch his video.

Violinist Nikki Naghavi is involved with Through the Staff, the “first and only organization” that provides free virtual online music lessons in orchestral, band, voice, jazz, conducting, and composition from conservatory-level students to young musicians across the country who could otherwise not afford or have access to them. “During the COVID pandemic, we are particularly interested in serving students whose access to public school music education has been cut off by school closures.”
They work with music students from 2nd through 12th grade. Learn more at:


Erhu player Benjamin Lee has been inspired to continue introducing the public to the erhu during his quarantine at home. “To combat Covid-19 fears I have arranged a short series of pieces about nature and the outdoors on my YouTube channel Erhu4All! Erhu classics are well-known for their intricate musical stories, especially those about nature, so I am more than happy to share these pieces with everyone during these trying times. My own rendition of the “Flight of the Bumblebee” will come out next week!

I plan to end the series with the debut of my own erhu and piano arrangement of the classic “Horse Race,” so be on the lookout for that, and I’ll see you there!”

Violist Patricia Tang is finishing her studies at Northwestern University and also working with Evanston Young Artists, a nonprofit organization that provides free and reduced-cost music lessons to students in need.  

“Evanston Young Artists (EYA) is a nonprofit organization founded in 2018 that works to decrease income inequality in performing arts education. We provide socioeconomically-disadvantaged students access to high-quality music lessons and training at a greatly reduced cost. In a typical school year, we work with around 20 students weekly on Saturdays, teaching them instrumental skills and fundamental music theory through private lessons and group classes.

In the past few weeks, we’ve moved all of our operations online following the cancellation of Northwestern’s spring quarter classes and shelter-in-place orders within the U.S. Our 18 student teachers, all music performance students at Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music, now teach weekly video call lessons to our students from their homes all across the country. We’ve come across many challenges in our switch to remote learning: for instance, we’ve learned that teaching our students to tune on Zoom is a long, arduous process!

Although COVID-19 has disrupted our regular Saturday music classes, we’re really excited that technology has enabled us to communicate with our students across hundreds of miles. We’re really glad that they’re able to make progress on their instruments despite everything, and can’t wait to see how much they’ve improved when we see them in person (hopefully) next school year!”

Pianist Baron Cao has been in touch about a new project he and some friends have launched: the Crown Education Challenge.

Baron Cao launches big idea on zoom call

Launched on a Zoom call

They noticed that many students in America were facing large gaps in their education because of the global pandemic and wanted to create an engaging academic experience.

“The Crown Education Challenge is a K-12 global contest launched by students at Harvard and Stanford. With millions of students facing educational disruption worldwide, the challenge strives to encourage
school-aged kids to take a stake in global challenges and to continue learning during the coronavirus pandemic.

We call on students everywhere to submit an art, STEM, or writing piece in response to the theme “hope during a pandemic” to highlight optimism and solidarity during this challenging crisis.

Top awardees will be published in the Harvard Technology Review and gain access to an elite network of experts, receiving a 1:1 mentorship session with professors from Stanford, Harvard, Juilliard, and other leading institutions, as well as notable artists, writers, and founders. Partners include premier education companies such as Wolfram and Kahoot!

For more information about the challenge guidelines, judging criteria, and prizes, visit”

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