From the Top visits the Boys & Girls Club of Palo Alto
The day after our taping at Stanford University’s Dinkelspiel Auditorium, From the Top had the opportunity to visit the Boys & Girls Club of East Palo Alto for a special family performance. 16-yr-old cellist Nathan Chan, 16-yr-old pianist Jade Huang and 13-yr-old violinist Stephen Waarts , all performers on the show, were joined by local alum, 13-yr-old pianist Hilda Huang, to play for an intimate audience of parents and kids.
Because of the small audience size, two young boys had a very special experience. James and Myles sat in the front row for the entire performance with wide eyes, asking great questions and sharing their reactions to the music.
James was one of the first audience members to arrive, and he got a special treat when the performers, who were all fooling around on the piano playing “Heart and Soul” invited him up to join them. Nathan started teaching him a simple left hand part while the others took turns playing the melody. After a couple rounds, James, who didn’t play the piano at all, was really starting to get it!
During the program, each musician played some of their favorite pieces, shared their thoughts on the music and answered questions from the audience. Nathan got things started with the beautiful Prelude from Bach’s Cello Suite No.3, then he shook things up a bit with the rock and jazz influenced “Julie-O”, which he had performed the night before. The kids were amazed by the way he used the cello as a guitar and a percussion instrument.
Hilda was next, and of course, we had to talk to her about her favorite composer, J.S. Bach. Hilda played a favorite Prelude and Fugue and gave a great explanation of the term fugue. She had the kids imagine four people running along with the same tune: sometimes they’re running next to each other, sometimes they’re crisscrossing and sometimes they crash into each other. Hilda also performed a Ligeti Etude, which one little boy said reminded him of a Tom and Jerry chase scene. Hilda agreed!
Stephen played an excerpt from the Brahms Violin Concerto before dazzling the audience with Waxman’s fiery Carmen Fantasie. He shared his thoughts on music as a language without words and how each person can create his or her own story in response. The kids in the audience imagined several colorful stories for the Carmen Fantasie after his powerful performance.
Next up was Jade, who played etudes by two different composers, explaining to the audience that these are essentially exercises for pianists. Jade began with Chopin’s Etude Op. 10 No. 1, which she described as the equivalent of push-ups for the right hand. Watching her right hand run up and down the keyboard at break-neck speed throughout the entire piece had the audience nodding in agreement. Jade brought the program to a close with the two Prokofiev Etudes she performed the night before, explaining that the second one was a great “anger management tool.”
The whole event ended just as it had begun: with the From the Top musicians showing the kids in the audience their instruments and getting them involved. James and Nathan became fast friends when they bonded over a shared love of Mettalica: Nathan quickly pulled out his cello and started jamming on “Unforgiven” and some other classic hits while James stood watching with a huge grin. Meanwhile Hilda was showing another little girl how to play some simple tunes on the piano. At the end, all of the performers were excitedly talking about a return visit and the different chamber music they could play. This could be the start of a beautiful collaboration.