From the Top Announces Spring Broadcast Festival

From the Top Announces Three-Week Broadcast Festival

Airing nationwide April 22 – May 6, 2024
with special guests Victor Wooten, Tessa Lark, and Jamie Barton

BOSTON, MA – March 19, 2024 – NPR Music raves that From the Top is “proof that classical music in America is alive and kicking…a potent antidote to any gloom-and-doom doubter. For over 20 years, From the Top has built an impressive platform to celebrate the music, lives, and stories of youngsters playing classical music.” This spring, From the Top reprises Where Music Lives, originally produced as a web series hosted by Grammy Award-winning Pentatonix beatboxer Kevin Olusola, a From the Top alum and current board member. Now a three-week special broadcast festival, airing April 22-May 6, 2024, Where Music Lives will feature talented artists across the United States while exploring the spaces and places that influence their musical lives.

Each of the three youth-inspired broadcasts will center a different place where talent has taken root, traveling from the bluegrass hotbed of Nashville to the more Rural areas of the country, and stepping back for a global perspective in a special Earth Day episode. Internationally renowned guest artists with strong links to these themes, including the legendary Nashville bassist Victor Wooten, acclaimed violinist and bluegrass fiddler Tessa Lark, and Appalachia-raised mezzo Jamie Barton will join host Peter Dugan on the air and mentor the featured artists behind the scenes.

Best known for its flagship broadcast airing weekly on nearly 200 radio stations nationwide, From the Top also invests ongoing time and resources to fill gaps in classical music training for the artists they feature on the air. Through their Learning and Media Lab, they give young musicians practical experiences in media and technology, community engagement, and storytelling and communication. In addition, the organization actively recruits and champions musicians with demonstrated need, recently announcing 21 talented recipients of its $10,000 Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Awards. From the Top’s efforts to increase access to high-level classical music study are changing the face of the industry, allowing new generations of creatives to see themselves reflected onstage.

“Young people have always shaped – and been shaped by – the world around them,” said From the Top Executive Director Gretchen Nielsen. “And with more information and connectivity at their fingertips than any generation before them, today’s youth seek a sense of agency and empowerment to positively impact their communities. We are proud that Where Music Lives will showcase the diverse experiences of 14 young musicians across the United States, giving them a platform to perform and discuss the places and issues that matter most to them.”

Earth Day Episode • Week of April 22

Featuring (as pictured from the left): Winston Schneider, 16-year-old composer/pianist from Omaha, NE; Julia Zhou, 16-year-old pianist from Boxborough, MA; Jiin Yun, 17-year-old cellist from Irvine, CA; Minoo Jang, 18-year-old oboist from Bellevue, WA; and Viviana Alfaro, 16-year-old harpist from Hughson, CA.

More than a third of the young musicians who apply to From the Top speak passionately about the importance of nature and the environment in their lives. From the Top’s special Earth Day episode centers some of these talented eco-artists. Audiences will meet an oboist who volunteers in a community garden providing fresh produce for a local foodbank, a cellist who founded an educational recycling program, and a pianist advocating for environmental reform by composing works inspired by natural disasters.

These mission-driven musicians will amplify works by living composers who drew from culturally and environmentally rich resources to create pieces that center nature. Tan Dun’s Eight Memories in Watercolor expresses the composer’s longing for the countryside of his childhood during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, while Collision Etudes by Alyssa Morris magnifies the beauty of the jimson weed painting by Georgia O’Keeffe. One of the featured young musicians, Winston Schneider, wrote his own piece: Salt Creek Tiger Beetle Quintet.

“Catching, studying and releasing insects, arachnids, and other arthropods is my way of connecting with nature,” says pianist and composer Winston Schneider. “To me, they’re fascinating to observe – almost like little aliens. I always say that musical ideas, like insects, can be found anywhere.”

This episode will serve as a sneak preview of a larger initiative From the Top has planned for the fall, in which aspiring young eco-artists will benefit from six weeks of practical guidance for using their artistic practices to engage with climate science and related topics. The program will be curated by RR Sigel, a creative producer known for work with Yo-Yo Ma’s Sound Postings, American Modern Opera Company, and Cal Performances.

Rural Episode • Week of April 29

Featuring (as pictured from the left): Bayla Davis, 15-year-old banjo player from Leicester, NC; Laurel Harned, 18-year-old guitarist from Redlands, CA;  Benjamin Rosenthal, 15-year-old violinist from Damariscotta, ME; Samuel Garcia, 18-year-old violinist from Monroe, LA; and Adam Brachman, 18-year-old pianist/composer from Fargo, ND.

Our second Where Music Lives broadcast introduces musicians from rural areas around the nation. These talented young folks are driven to study classical music despite the additional hurdles they face. Rolling farmland, local butcher shops, and red brick general stores provide the backdrops for this week’s bucolic episode, which will also be captured in short video features through a partnership with director Kelly King and film production company Vanishing Angle.

Violinist and bluegrass fiddler Tessa Lark will co-host this episode with Peter Dugan, drawing on the musical traditions of her native Kentucky. Audiences will meet young musicians from Maine to North Dakota and learn about the challenges of pursuing serious musical study without the educational resources found in large cities. Featured performers will also benefit from off-the-record conversations with high-level guest artists who come from rural backgrounds themselves. Artists like mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton, who was raised in the foothills of Appalachia, will share how their communities helped shape them into the performers we now see commanding stages worldwide.

“I grew up really rural – in fact, we just got running water from the county a couple of years ago,” said opera singer Jamie Barton, dubbed “opera’s nose-studded rockstar” by The New York Times. “Bluegrass music was a big part of my family life. My great aunt and uncle would host pickin’s and grinnin’s, where all the musicians in the family would gather in a circle to play through songs on the banjo or mandolin. I didn’t discover classical music until I was a teenager, so a lot of my musical ear was developed in those family jam sessions and hearing harmonies in church on Sundays.”

To build community among young artists from rural backgrounds, From the Top invites musicians of all genres to share a musical postcard from their favorite hometown spot. Videos tagged with #WhereMusicLives will be re-shared by @fromthetopfans to raise the visibility of music-making happening in all corners of the country.

Nashville Episode • Week of May 6

Featuring (as pictured from the left): Katie Wang, 16-year-old pianist from Brentwood, TN; Wyatt Ellis, 14-year-old mandolin player/composer from Maryville, TN; Jasper Sewell, 18-year-old violinist from Chattanooga, TN; and Aarushi Kumar, 17-year-old flutist from Nashville, TN.

Nashville, Tennessee, is one of the great musical capitals of the world – and the focus of the final episode in this spring’s Where Music Lives. Audiences will meet a local teen mandolin prodigy and composer as well as the Grammy Award-winning Tennessee State University Marching Band (Aristocrat of Bands). From the Top will visit classically trained musicians all over the state, exploring the music programs that have helped them thrive.

Nashville is also home to five-time Grammy winner Victor Wooten, a founding member of the supergroup Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, who will serve as this episode’s co-host. Known for his genre-defying style and voted one of the Top Ten Bassists of All Time by Rolling Stone, Wooten believes every student has a natural ability. In a neat wraparound to the opening episode of Where Music Lives, centered on the environment, he also established Victor Wooten’s Center for Music and Nature, a music camp that integrates nature studies to help each student realize and reclaim their organic gifts in both music and life.

“A musical performance is not simply a reflection of what happens in the practice room – it is shaped by both the natural and the musical landscapes of the artist’s community,” said From the Top Host Peter Dugan. “Thanks to the commitment of local music teachers, orchestra directors, and community organizations, we at From the Top continue to find incredibly talented and accomplished young musicians all across America. I’m eager for our listeners to hear how these diverse landscapes inform a young performer’s approach to the classical canon, as well as their embrace of contemporary music and the traditional music of their hometowns.”

Where Music Lives is generously supported by the Volgenau Foundation and the Onion Foundation.

Press Contact: Beth Stewart
Verismo Communications

Tel: 618.444.3183 | Email:

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