Scholarship Recipient Update – Karen Cueva

24-year-old violinist Karen Cueva appeared on NPR’s From the Top with Host Christopher O’Riley Show 187, recorded in October 2008, at age 17. In conjunction with her performance on the show, she also received From the Top’s Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award.


Karen considers herself to be both a violinist and an educator who is passionate about issues of equity and representation in classical music. A graduate of The Juilliard School, Karen earned her Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in Violin Performance under the tutelage of Professor Lewis Kaplan. She is currently a Master of Education Degree candidate in the Arts in Education program at Harvard University Graduate School of Education. Karen is the co-founder of the Du Bois Orchestra at Harvard, a chamber orchestra devoted to social inclusion and educational outreach.

“I was a senior in high school when I received the Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award and performed on From the Top. I combined the scholarship with another one I fortunately received, and bought my violin. Just two and a half weeks later I used it for my Juilliard audition. It enabled me to create a great sound, and I still play it to this day.

I would like to add that the money is really significant and says a lot about the generosity of the organization. But the faith in my capacity to succeed was even more valuable. Also, as part of From the Top, I began to do outreach work. With my new violin, I went to an elementary school in Dorchester; it was wonderful. It was my first time doing outreach. I was so hooked by the kids and their enthusiasm. Between their love of music and mine, we connected in such a powerful way. I began to truly understand the importance of my position as a Latino violinist and the importance of seeing someone who looked like me in places I wasn’t used to. In fact, I chose Juilliard because they offered students so many chances to carry on outreach work. While at Juilliard, I did teaching fellowships at public and charter schools, and I taught at an El Sistema based program called Opportunity Music Project. The violin I bought has been played for so many kids around the city and I feel lucky to have it.”

Starting on May 9, 2016, Karen will use her outreach experience in a week-long residency in Miami with fellow From the Top alumni, working with more than 240 local students to celebrate the music of their community. Check back next week for updates direct from Miami!