Applications FAQ

These FAQs relate to applying to be on NPR’s From the Top with Host Christopher O’Riley.

If you are applying for the Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award, check out our Scholarship FAQs. If you have questions about the Center for Development of Arts Leaders, click here.

Questions? Email auditions@fromthetop.org. or call 617-437-0707 x 134

1. The Basics

1a. What are the eligibility requirements?

You are eligible if you:

  • Are between the ages of 8–18 and have not enrolled in a college or conservatory
  • Live in the US
  • Have significant training in connection to the US 

1b. Who can audition?

  • Solo instrumentalists
  • Vocalists
  • Composers
  • Small ensembles (8 members or fewer)
  • Large ensembles (9 members or more)

1c. What style of music does From the Top feature?

From the Top’s primary focus is to present music from the western classical tradition. However, we occasionally present music from other non-pop genres including folk music, world music, spirituals, and acoustic or piano jazz.

We’re particularly open to music that combines the western classical tradition with other non-classical forms, and to performers who can perform both classical music and other genres at a very high level. Contact auditions@fromthetop.org if you have a question about your genre of music.

1d. Is there an application fee?

There is a $70 application fee for all applicants to the radio show with the exception of Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award applicants. For more information on the Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award please click here.

1e. Are there deadlines for submitting the application and audition materials?

There are no specific application deadlines. This means that we select performers for all tapings on a rolling admission basis.  However, here are a few exceptions:

  • High school seniors are encouraged to apply as early as possible –February 1 at the latest. We will still review your application if you submit it later, but given our rolling admissions system and limited slots, your chances of being selected for an appearance on From the Top are greater the earlier you apply.
  • There ARE deadlines for the Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award. Please visit our Scholarship page to learn more.
  • If you’d like to be considered for a specific show, you must submit an application approximately four months before that recording date.

2. My Repertoire

2a. What style of music does From the Top feature?

From the Top’s primary focus is to present music from the western classical tradition. However, we occasionally present music from other non-pop genres including folk music, world music, spirituals, and acoustic or piano jazz.

We’re particularly open to music that combines the western classical tradition with other non-classical forms, and to performers who can perform both classical music and other genres at a very high level. Contact auditions@fromthetop.org if you have a question about your genre of music.

2b. Do you prefer any particular types of repertoire?

We generally avoid concerto repertoire and, for solo instruments other than piano, unaccompanied pieces. Other than this, we have no restrictions or preferences. We hope you’ll choose repertoire that shows you off in the best way possible!

2c. What should I include on my audition recording?

  • We require only two selections, but you may upload as many as six video and six audio recordings if you would like. We generally prefer video over audio, but we accept either. Please submit contrasting pieces if possible.
  • Pieces can be of any length for audition purposes, but we prefer selections under 5 minutes for soloists or 6 minutes for ensembles.
  • Works of longer duration that are selected for the show will be subject to cuts. You may attach a list of additional repertoire, however, From the Top must first hear any piece selected for performance.

2d. Is it okay if my audition repertoire is longer than the preferred length (3-5 minutes for composers/soloists; 6 minutes for ensembles)?

Yes, but if you are selected for the show, your performance must fit within our time limitations. That can mean making additional cuts to your existing piece or selecting an alternative movement or work. From the Top is a sixty-minute program that features more than just individual performances. Each show also includes interviews, games, and other special segments. There is a lot to fit in an hour!

2e. Do I need an accompanist?

From the Top features both accompanied and unaccompanied repertoire. If the music you choose for your audition recording calls for piano accompaniment, we prefer but do not require that you submit a recording with accompaniment. If you are selected for a show and your repertoire requires accompaniment, you will be accompanied by the host of From the Top, pianist Christopher O’Riley.

2f. I’m a vocalist. What type of music should I prepare for my audition?

We ask that you prepare classical repertoire such as art songs or arias. Unfortunately, we cannot feature Broadway or Pop tunes. Feel free to listen to past shows on our website for examples of singers. We highly recommend you perform with a pianist. Please contact us with any specific repertoire questions.

3. The Audition

3a. How polished does my audition have to be?

If you think it’s a good representation of how well you currently play, then you’re ready to audition.

3b. What level of audio quality is required for the audition recording?

Of course, we need to be able to hear you, and the more clearly we can hear you, the better. However, that doesn’t mean you have to spend money booking studio time. A recording made at home with an iPhone or other devices of similar quality is acceptable.

3c. Does From the Top prefer video or audio auditions?

While we prefer video auditions, we are happy to accept audio as well.

3d. How do I upload the videos to my application?

You can upload video files to our application site, FluidReview, but we prefer that you share them with us as a YouTube or Vimeo link in the application. We just ask that you make sure your videos’ privacy settings are set to either “public” or “unlisted.” If they are set to “private” we cannot see them!

3e. How many videos or audio recordings should I upload?

  • We require only two selections, but you may upload as many as six video and six audio recordings if you would like. We generally prefer video over audio, but we accept either. Please submit contrasting pieces if possible.
  • Pieces can be of any length for audition purposes, but we prefer selections under 5 minutes for soloists or 6 minutes for ensembles.
  • Works of longer duration that are selected for the show will be subject to cuts. You may attach a list of additional repertoire, however, From the Top must first hear any piece selected for performance.

4. My Application

4a. How long will the application take to complete?

The online application generally takes a few hours to complete, depending on your application type. The scholarship application can take longer to complete, as it requires detailed financial information.

4b. Do I need to complete the entire online application in one sitting, or can I save my work and come back later?

  • You can save your work and come back at any point. Clicking the “Save & Continue Editing” button on the bottom center of your screen can save applications in progress. Once you click that button, your progress will be saved through that point. You can exit at any time, or click the “Home” button at the top left corner of the screen.
  • It is important to know that the application requires a few essays that may take you a bit of time to complete. It might be helpful to work on the essays in a word document and copy them into the application when they are complete.

4c. Do I need my parents’ help with the application?

If you are applying for the Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award, you will need your parents’ help to complete sensitive financial information required for the scholarship application. For other applicants, parental assistance is not necessary.

4d. Who do I contact if I need help with my application?

If you are having a technical issue with the application please contact FluidReview Help. If you have questions about the application process or need clarification on From the Top’s application requirements, please contact auditions@fromthetop.org.

4e. I submitted my application, but I made a mistake and need to change it. How can I re-access my application?

If you’ve submitted your application but need to fix an error, please contact us at auditions@fromthetop.org.

4f. What if I don’t have access to a personal computer/I can’t upload my audition recording to your online application?

If you are unable to use our online application, you may apply via mail. Contact auditions@fromthetop.org and request a paper application.

4g. I want to apply as a small or large ensemble and don’t see an option for that program on the first page of the application in the section, “I am applying for.” Where do I apply as an ensemble?

In order to apply as a small or large ensemble, select “NPR’s From the Top with Host Christopher O’Riley” at the bottom of the first page of the application. If your group is based in the Boston area and you also wish to apply for the Center for the Development of Arts Leaders, select “Both.” On the next page, select either small or large ensemble under “Application type”.

4h. I want to apply for the Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award and don’t see an option for that program on the first page of the application in the section, “I am applying for.” Where do I apply for the Young Artist Award?

The Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award is given in conjunction with a performance on NPR’s From the Top with Host Christopher O’Riley. In order to apply for the Young Artist Award, select “NPR’s From the Top with Host Christopher O’Riley” at the bottom of the first page of the application. If you live in the Boston area and you also wish to apply for the Center for the Development of Arts Leaders, select “Both”. On the next page, you will be asked if you are applying for the Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award after you indicate your Application type.

4i. Are there deadlines for submitting the application and audition materials?

There are no specific application deadlines. This means that we select performers for all tapings on a rolling admission basis.  However, here are a few exceptions:

  • High school seniors are encouraged to apply as early as possible –February 1 at the latest. We will still review your application if you submit it later, but given our rolling admissions system and limited slots, your chances of being selected for an appearance on From the Top are greater the earlier you apply.
  • There ARE deadlines for the Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award. Please visit our Scholarship page to learn more.
  • If you’d like to be considered for a specific show, you must submit an application approximately four months before that recording date. Please see question 7c for more information.

5. The Show

5a. How does From the Top with Host Christopher O’Riley select performers?

Each From the Top show usually features five different performances. The booking process is like a puzzle, as we have many criteria to consider aside from musical ability. These criteria include gender, age, instrumentation, repertoire, eligibility for our need-based $10,000 scholarship program, and diversity of stories.

5b. When are From the Top programs produced?

Live recordings (16–18 per season) take place throughout the year at venues across the country. See where we’re headed this season by clicking here.

6. The Selection Process

6a. When will I hear if I’ve been selected?

Because performers on From the Top are cast on a rolling admissions basis, it can take as long as three months before you will be notified.

6b. If selected, what expenses are provided by From the Top?

  • Air, train, or bus transportation (2 tickets for soloists and a maximum of 4 round-trip tickets for small ensembles) is provided for performers and chaperones* who live more than 4 hours away from the venue. If driving is an option and that distance is more than 4 hours, From the Top will contribute to those ground transportation costs.
  • Lodging is provided for the performer(s) and one chaperone. For small ensembles, members may be asked to share rooms.
    Large ensembles are typically selected for tapings in their home area to avoid travel costs.
  • Ground transportation at the venue location (i.e. transportation to and from airport, public transportation, etc.), food, and other sundry expenses are the responsibility of the performer.

*Each soloist/ensemble must be accompanied by one adult chaperone.

6c. If selected, when will my program air?

Our shows are recorded in front of a live audience. Each show is edited down from the 1.5-hour live taping and aired at a later date. You can find out when a particular show will air by visiting our site here. You can also listen to shows by subscribing to our podcast.

7. Other Things

7a. I want to apply as a small or large ensemble and don’t see an option for that program on the first page of the application in the section, “I am applying for.” Where do I apply as an ensemble?

In order to apply as a small or large ensemble, select “NPR’s From the Top with Host Christopher O’Riley” at the bottom of the first page of the application. If your group is based in the Boston area and you also wish to apply for the Center for the Development of Arts Leaders, select “Both.” On the next page, select either small or large ensemble under “Application type”.

7b. Can I reapply if I have already appeared on From the Top?

If you have appeared on From the Top as a soloist, you must either wait two years before reapplying or apply as a member of an ensemble. If you have appeared with an ensemble, your ensemble must wait two years before reapplying or you can reapply as a soloist or member of a different ensemble.

7c. You’re coming to my hometown! Can I apply specifically to that show?

If you would like to be on a particular show, you must submit an application approximately four months before that recording date. We do take show preference into consideration, but performers are considered for all shows when they apply regardless of preference. We regularly fly performers from their homes to perform on our programs around the country. For information on our upcoming live recordings, check out our national tour schedule.

7d. How can I listen to From the Top right now?

Click here for a list of ways to listen!

7e. If my local public radio station doesn’t carry From the Top, is there anything I can do?

You, your family and your friends can write, phone, or email the station’s program director and encourage the station to carry From the Top. But don’t forget that you can listen to From the Top’s broadcasts at any time on our podcast!

8. The Scholarship

8a. How do I learn more about, and possibly apply for, the $10,000 Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award?

Visit our scholarship page!

The Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award is given in conjunction with a performance on the radio program. Even if you are not selected for the Young Artist Award, you might still be selected to appear on the show as a performer. Solo instrumentalists and vocalists, composers, and members of small ensembles all may apply for the Award.