On the Road with Joanne Robinson: Show 217 Boston, Massachusetts

Here in the From the Top office, we’re still on a high from the incredible taping Tuesday night at Symphony Hall, where we teamed up with Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops! What an exciting show this was. From start to finish, it featured one phenomenal performance after another. Four of the young musicians who joined us were alums, and it was amazing to see how much they’d grown as performers.

Keith Lockhart, Conductor of the Boston Pops

The show opened with nine-year-old pianist Umi Garrett. This tiny girl, clad in a party dress and bows, is nothing short of a musical dynamo. She played Mozart flawlessly and then had a very funny bit where she showed off a trick – playing “Heart and Soul” while backwards and upside down – and Keith Lockhart jumped in to harmonize!

Next up was another alum, pianist Ronald Joseph, who was on our TV show when he was 17. Ronald grew up in New Orleans, but was displaced by Hurricane Katrina and studied for a year at the Juilliard School. You can see his story here. Now a sophomore at Bard College, he and Christopher O’Riley collaborated on a two-piano piece by composer Danny Elfman, joined by the Pops.

Third up was 16-year-old Michael Bridge, who played the Russian bayan. You’ve never heard of a Russian bayan, you say? No worries. Maestro Lochart took one look at it and said, “Hey, that’s not an accordion! What is that?” Michael loved that! To explain, the bayan looks a lot like the accordion except that it has buttons instead of keys as well as a broader right hand range. Michael played Vittorio Monti’s Czardas, backed by the Boston Pops, and it was a showstopper!

Next up was one of my favorite alums – 17-year-old cellist Gabe Cabezas, who was first on our show with his quartet when he was 12, and then performed as a soloist on both our radio and TV shows. We brought him back once again for this special taping to play with the Pops. Always a great performer and an old pro at all things From the Top, I think he outdid himself this time playing Shostakovich.

Next up was 17-year-old Michelle Lee, who is not only an excellent violinist, but also an accomplished tap dancer. She played Kreisler’s Tambourin Chinois backed by the Pops. In the middle of the piece, she handed her violin to Chris, did a tap dancing routine, and then grabbed her violin back to finish the piece with a flourish. The audience loved it!

The show closed with 17-year-old composer Jeremiah Klarman. When he was originally on our show at the age of 13, we introduced him as From the Top’s biggest fan. It meant so much to him to be on the show back then, and I was greatly looking forward to his return. The Boston Pops performed Jeremiah’s Symphony No.1 in C minor, and I was completely blown away! I could tell Jeremiah was too, and I was thrilled for him.

I’ve created a little flip cam montage of our music rehearsal the night before the show. The Pops weren’t there, but you can see Keith working with the kids. He was so great with them! Believe me when I say that this show was a special treat, and one not to miss when it airs the week of September 6.