On the Road with Joanne Robinson: Triple Feature! Shows 251, 252, and 253

Spring is a notoriously busy time here in From the Top land, but this spring has been, without a doubt, the extra-crazy-busiest! In the last few weeks we’ve crisscrossed the country from northern New York to sunny Tennessee to way out west in Oregon, all the while as we prepared for our annual gala which took place last week in Boston. Needless to say, I am a wee bit behind on my blogging, so without further ado I present to you… “On the Road with Joanne Robinson: Triple Feature!”

Host Christopher O’Riley gives pianist Avery Gagliano pointers on her piece “Cat and Mouse”

Our extra special triple feature starts way up north almost on the border of Canada in the quaint university town of Potsdam, New York, where we taped a show at the Crane School of Music. It was a terrific show, full of incredible performances and stories and a true diversity of kids who really seemed to have a great time. I loved watching two of our performers – 10-year-old pianist Avery Gagliano and 18-year-old flutist Margaux Filet – playing the hand game “slide” backstage. I also got a kick out of the fact that performer Jieming Tang  played an 18th century Gagliano violin, which meant that a 10-year-old Gagliano (Avery) and a nearly 300-year-old Gagliano shared the same stage!

The drive home from Potsdam to Boston was gorgeous; we found ourselves in a winter wonderland. As we wound around Lake Champlain and down through Vermont, I kept my flipcam out and at the ready, hoping for a “Champ” sighting (Champ is the mythical sea monster who allegedly makes his home in Lake Champlain). Alas, all I captured were rocks and sticks.

A mere four days later the From the Top crew landed in hot and sunny Chattanooga, Tennessee for a taping at the Tivoli Theatre. I just loved the Tivoli, and the people in Chattanooga were the epitome of Southern hospitality. The show featured two local performers – 16-year-old vocalist Thomas West and 17-year-old trumpeter John Burton – and there was enormous audience support for them. Something cool that didn’t make it onto the show is the fact that John Burton isn’t only an outstanding musician, he also happens to be an incredible juggler. He showed off some of his juggling tricks backstage, and I caught some of it on flipcam for you (check out “Sneak Peek Show 252” below)!

Now on to Portland, Oregon! Portland is such a vibrant city, known for its forward-thinking people and great arts scene, but what I think I appreciated most of all was the abundance of great local coffee shops. We taped at the gorgeous Newmark Theatre to a full house. We were thrilled to once again feature violinist Simone Porter, now 15, who was on our show originally back when she was 11, and an incredible musician even then. When the show goes live we’ll be posting a video of Simone “through the ages” so make sure to look out for that! This taping had many great moments, but I especially loved the finale, which featured two piano-playing sisters performing Percy Grainger’s Fantasy on George Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess for Two Pianos. An exhilarating end to a whirlwind tour.

And now for your viewing pleasure, I have three, count ‘em three, video sneak peeks for you! Enjoy – and I’ll be in touch next week to tell you all about our Houston taping.