On the Road with Joanne Robinson: Show 216 Ames, Iowa

Hi everyone! We just got back from Iowa, where we taped a show at Iowa State University in Ames. One of the school’s most celebrated graduates was in our audience – the great American baritone Simon Estes! He introduced the first performer, 18-year-old violist Caroline Weeks, who played a beautiful piece by Rebecca Clarke.

Simon Estes and Elizabeth DeVore, From the Top's Production Manager

Next up was a local performer, 18-year-old oboist Bryanne Presley, who played Vaughan Williams and provided one of my favorite moments of the show. Her dad is also her band teacher and we had him join her onstage to talk about all the pranks she’s pulled on him over the years. Of course, we couldn’t resist encouraging him to get back at her on national radio, and he delivered with a karaoke serenade that made her squirm!

Our production manager Elizabeth grew up in Iowa, and it turned out that Bryanne’s dad was actually her first band teacher back when she was in middle school! When they reunited before the show, Elizabeth reminded him of why she chose to play trumpet – because he had convinced her that developing the muscles in her lips would make her a good kisser someday!

Next up on the show was 16-year-old Kong Qi, who is new to America having recently come across the world from China to study music at the Walnut Hill School in Massachusetts. He played the exciting first movement from Stravinsky’s Three Movements from Petrushka.

We were then joined by our 10th Anniversary Alumni special guest, conductor Keitaro Harada, who beautifully performed Astor Piazzola’s Adios Nonino on saxophone and discussed the road to becoming a conductor. I can still vividly remember his appearance on our show seven years ago, and it was thrilling to catch up with him again.

The show closed with Octet Abbraccio from Columbus, Ohio performing Mendelssohn’s Octet in E-flat, Op. 20. I loved this piece, and I was touched to see the group members in tears and hugging one another after the show. It turns out that several of them are graduating this year and this was their final performance together. What an honor to be able to share the moment with them!

We captured their wonderful performance in its entirety (including a bit of the aftermath) on video. They really exemplify the special bond that playing music together creates.