Getting Good Reception in Miami

This outreach event took place during the weekend of Show 305 in Miami, Florida.

A shy boy with a mop of dark hair sits quietly on the side of the classroom at Pine Villa Elementary School in Miami, Florida. When Antonio Urrutia, one of the performers on From the Top’s recent residency in the area, asks if any of the children were not born in the United States, the boy wiggles his fingers, but does not raise his hand. The children around him point to him, and Antonio gently asks where he is from. “El Salvador” he says quietly, and Antonio grins.

“Great!” says Antonio, who was born in Colombia, “a fellow Latin-American” and the shy boy smiles.

Soon, Finley Lau, a percussionist from Chicago, brings out a snare drum, and the boy’s eyes light up. This time he overcomes his shyness and his hand shoots straight up in the air. Finley calls on him to try out a few things on the drum. “Play a loud sound” says Finley, and the boy lets the drumstick hit the top of the drum.

POP! The sound echoes around the room and giggles erupt from the second graders. These second graders are at Pine Villa Elementary, where University of Miami’s MusicReach program will be creating a strings and choral program in the fall. This is one of the first opportunities these kids have had to see instruments like these up close. Their eyes are alight with curiosity. Any time the performers stop to take a breath, a room full of tiny hands shoot up in the air, eager to ask a question or share their own thoughts.

“How did you make that sound with the oboe?”

“How do you sing like that?”

“You sound like Taylor Swift!”

“I always wanted to be a tap dancer!”

That last one didn’t even make sense, but the boy with the mohawk haircut who raised his hand to tell us was so earnest, so delighted to connect.

While it was a small room of second graders, our performers cherished the receptiveness of those tiny students. As Finley said later in our Arts Leadership workshop, “From the first moment, when Matthew played the first note, their eyes were wide and they were so excited. It was humbling to be able to play for them.”


We’ve got one more day of workshops in another elementary school in the north side of Miami. One of their students will share music with us, and then our performers will do a final workshop, incorporating everything they’ve learned. It’s been an amazing week of unexpected, and subtly powerful, connections.

From the Top’s residency in Miami is made possible, in part, by the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust and the Howard and Geraldine Polinger Family Foundation.


To listen to Show 305, click here.