Umi Garrett Shows How Classical Performance Can be for All Ages

(courtesy of

9 year-old pianist and Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Umi Garrett (who appeared on last week’s From the Top broadcast with the Boston Pops) joined the Desert Symphony on their Children’s Music Discovery Series to perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto no.23 in A Major. The concert was held on April 16, 2010 at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert, CA for an audience of more than 1,000 children! Both Umi and the Desert Symphony hoped to expose Coachella Valley school children to the beauty and joy of classical music. She wanted her young audience to see that classical music is for every age, and that someone just like them can perform with an orchestra if they work hard and believe in themselves. Umi shares more about the experience:

“Maybe some kids had never been to a concert before and they learned the concert hall was really big. Or some kids who thought that classical music was really boring before discovered that classic music is actually really COOL. I think the kids really liked that a kid their age was a part of the concert.”

We asked Umi to share more about her performance with the Desert Symphony:

(courtesy of

FTT: What was the concert like for you? Did you have a favorite moment?

Umi: The experience was very fun. I was very happy that the kids were excited about the performance. Some may never have heard a piano concerto or knew what a piano concerto was. Some may have gone home and said to their parents that they want to learn how to play one of the instruments, or maybe some already knew how to play an instrument and they went home knowing if they practice harder they will be able to play with the symphony someday too. I had two favorite moments in this concert. One was before the concert while I was backstage. The door to the stage was a little open so I peeked out to see the audience. The kids noticed me and waved at me, and I waved back. My other favorite moment was after the concert when all the kids clapped and cheered for me. It seemed that they enjoyed the concert.

FTT: What did you learn from the concert?

Umi: I had never performed in front of that many kids before. But now I know that kids are really excited to hear music, especially performed by a kid their age. I learned I can influence and help children with good music.

FTT: Why do you think these types of performances are important?

Umi: Music is a “present” for the audience, like a birthday card. If you give someone a birthday card they will like it. So if I perform music, they will like it too, just like a birthday card.

FTT: What advice would you give other musicians interested in doing a similar type of project or performance?

Umi: If you want to perform for small kids like me, we like exciting music. We like moving music and we like fast tempos. Kids also like time for questions so they get to ask some questions to the performer.

Several students wrote thank you letters to Umi and the Desert Symphony, several of which are shown below: