Coming Next Spring: From the Top in Bogota, Colombia!

We are thrilled to announce that From the Top will travel to Bogota, Colombia in May, 2012 to record a radio show! Our Co-CEO/Executive Producer Jerry Slavet and Tour Producer David Balsom just spent an amazing few days there, setting things in motion. Here’s a recap from David:

The first question everyone asks is “why Colombia?” and the answer is really very simple – we were invited! Many of you may be familiar with El Sistema, the Venezuelan project that employs classical music training of young children to effect societal change (Los Angeles Philharmonic conductor Gustavo Dudamel is its most famous alumnus). In Colombia, Batuta is the name of their national program that is doing much the same thing.

Jerry Slavet and David Balsom with Batuta members

Headed by an extraordinary man, Juan Antonio Cuellar, Batuta involves nearly 50,000 children across Colombia in 284 orchestra centers in over 100 cities and towns. The crown jewel in Batuta is the Colombian Youth Philharmonic (Filarmonica Joven de Colombia or FJC), whose conductor is Matthew (Mateo) Hazelwood, former Director of Orchestras at Interlochen Arts Academy. Both Juan Antonio (who has lived part-time in the US over the last decade) and Mateo (who conducted Interlochen groups on both our radio and TV shows) are very familiar with From the Top and felt that the radio show is an ideal vehicle to showcase the incredible music being made by young people in one of the world’s emerging economies. For our part, at From the Top we’ve been seeking an opportunity to explore the world beyond our borders and to bring the energy of young musicians to our audience.

What did we see and hear on our trip? In addition to warm and engaging hospitality from our hosts, we heard 2 different youth orchestras play with great energy and enthusiasm in cramped rehearsal spaces in neighborhoods that could be described as “neglected.” An Orff group of children ages 6-18 who played and sang so beautifully they brought tears to my eyes.

We traveled 300 miles southwest from Bogota to Cali, where on a Colombian Air Force base (yes, we had to surrender our passports to gain access) we heard a 400 piece “all-state” youth orchestra rehearse for a national television broadcast- an airplane hanger is the only space big enough to hold an orchestra of that size. When a cello and double bass section of 50 kids start spinning their instruments in a kind-of dance, you can’t help but smile.

Something very special is happening with young musicians in Colombia, and we’re excited to be heading there to record radio shows with these great kids and to bring that enthusiasm and awesome music to listeners across the U.S.

If you’d like to learn more about Batuta, Eric Booth recently wrote an essay which is provided after the jump!