On the Road with Joanne Robinson: Show 219 St. Paul, MN

I can’t believe we’re already kicking off our 11th season of radio shows, and what better way than a fantabulous piano extravaganza! We taped the first show of the season earlier this week at the Young Artist World Piano Festival on the beautiful campus of Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota.

It was an exciting show that featured practically everything the piano can do, from solo to chamber music to a piano duo to a bombastic finale with eight hands flying! Three From the Top alums were included in the festivities. There was 15-year-old Colton Peltier, who appeared this time around with the Aurailea Trio, along with violinist Nora Scheller, 17, and cellist Jocelyn Schendel, 18. The trio performed the first movement of Ravel’s Piano Trio in A minor beautifully

Also featured was Leeza Ali, 16, who previously appeared as a soloist on both our radio and TV programs and now performed as part of our show’s grand finale. Picture two grand pianos, with two pianists seated at each bench. Leeza Ali, 18-year-old Reed Tetzloff, 17-year-old Leo Wexler-Mann, and the great Christopher O’Riley himself performed Smetana’s Sonata in One Movement for Eight Hands in E minor. It was fascinating watching the four of them working through all the intricacies of the piece at music rehearsal.

We also reconnected with cellist John-Henry Crawford, 17, who was flown in to collaborate with 17-year-old pianist Kenny Broberg on a movement from Brahms Sonata No. 2 for Cello and Piano. It was hard to believe these two met and put together this piece just one day prior to taping!

We  met superstar sisters Cindy and Serena Lu, ages 14 and 12, who played the first movement of Mozart’s Sonata in D Major for Two Pianos and then showed off their other major skill, rhythmic gymnastics (which, if you’re not familiar, is acrobatic gymnastics done with props, such as hoops, ribbons and balls). These two are such talented gymnasts that they recently competed in the Junior Olympics! During the show, I managed to tape some footage of them demonstrating, which will go live on our website when the show airs, but until then, check out this YouTube clip of 12-year-old Serena in action.

We also met 9-year-old pianist William Yang (fondly nicknamed “Yangster the Gangster”), who, though rather quiet in person, is as expressive as can be when he plays piano. For your viewing pleasure, I flip-cammed Mr. Gangster rehearsing his piece, Chopin’s Scherzo No.1 in B minor, the night before the show. Don’t miss the part when the block of wood propping up his piano bench becomes unsteady and Chris O’Riley sneaks in to save the day, or the very end of the piece where William finishes with a dynamic flourish. I loved it!