On the Road with Joanne Robinson: Our Week in Colorado

From the Top team members were greeted by a rainbow in Breckenridge!

We were greeted in Breckenridge by a gorgeous rainbow! (above: education team members Michael Dahlberg and Linda Gerstle)

We’re back from our week-long trip to Colorado which was packed to the brim with all sorts of events. Colorado is home to two of the best summer music festivals in America, and we were lucky enough to be invited to participate in both.

We started out in Vail, as part of the Bravo! Vail festival. Our recording there featured three talented young soloists, Bravo! Vail’s Artistic director & pianist Anne-Marie McDermott, and the National Repertory Orchestra, a professional summer training orchestra with members ranging in age from 18 to 28.

There were many great moments during the show, but I was especially touched by a story told by 17-year-old violinist Mira Yamamoto. She shared that she had been adopted from a children’s home in Kazakhstan when she was 2 years old old. Her mom recalled that Mira was so scared and withdrawn that she didn’t speak or smile and was completely shut off to human interaction. It wasn’t until Mira started studying violin that she began to come out of her shell and interact with the world. These days, Mira is a far cry from that unhappy little girl she once was; she was excited to share the wonderful news that she will soon be continuing her musical studies at Juilliard!

After the show, I hit the road with our education team. They were on their way to Breckenridge to lead a workshop with the members of the National Repertory Orchestra. The event was incredibly inspiring. The orchestra members discussed the role of orchestras in today’s society and came up with all sorts of insights about the ways they could engage, serve, even challenge the audiences they meet in Breckenridge and beyond.  As usual, we had to kick off the workshop with something to break the ice; in this case, a kazoo-choir rendition of Stars and Stripes Forever did the trick!

Our next stop was our old stomping ground, Aspen, home of the Aspen Music Festival and School. So many From the Toppers spend their summers there that we regularly hold an annual alumni picnic on the grounds. It’s awesome reconnecting with old friends and learning about their current lives.

The next day we recorded a show on the campus at Harris Concert Hall. We started out with an especially amusing audience warm-up, which included From the Top trivia. We used the opportunity to poke fun at one of our CEOs, who, as a teen, worked at the Aspen Music Festival cleaning toilets and sweeping dead mice off of practice room floors. It just goes to show that you never know how far that early career experience can take you!

The show was so energetic and wonderful. One of my favorite parts was the return of cellist Noah Lee, who was originally on our show when he was 11 and is now 15. This is a young musician who is so intense and passionate when he plays I find it impossible to turn away. I loved his performance of Mark Summer’s “Julie-O” so much I wanted to share it with you. Check out this video I captured during our dress rehearsal.

Make sure to tune in when these shows air in October. Next tour stop: Atlanta, Georgia, in September. Happy summer, everyone, and I’ll catch up with you again in the fall!

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