Violinist Charles Yang Steps into Guest Host Role


Photo of Charles YangCharles Yang, a maverick violinist whose musical taste ranges from Bach to the Beatles, first appeared on From the Top in 2002 at the age of 14, delivering a show-stopping performance of Zigeunerweisen and professing his love for the violin, “the violin is like caffeine” he said, “…you get addicted to it…if I put it down, I just have to pick it back up.

The same is true for Charles. We just couldn’t let him go.

His infectious personality and musical prowess brought him back on From the Top five times over the years (plus an episode of From the Top’s PBS TV series, where the Mayor of Austin declared a city-wide “Charles Yang day”.)

It all came full circle when Charles stepped up to the mic in Beaver Creek, Colorado this January as guest host with close friend Peter Dugan as pianist/co-host. We sat down with the Bernstein-award winner and member of Time for Three to talk about what it was like to record the episode (which airs nationally the week of February 18), reflect on his relationship with From the Top, and his role in mentoring the next generation of young musicians.

FTT: What was it like to step into the role of guest host of From the Top?

Credit: Barry Eckhaus

CY: Man was that fun!  Having been on the other side numerous times, I got to experience the magic this show brings to young musicians as a host. To see these incredible young artists connect with each other in such a short time was pure magic.  No other show around does that.

We had a violinist, guitarist, flutist, pianist, and an erhu player on the show, an already SUPER eclectic mix of musicians but to see them interact with each other socially and musically was amazing. By the end of the taping, we were all jamming together. That eagerness to create music together, much of which was not even part of the show, really moved me and my co-host Peter Dugan.

FTT: In what ways did From the Top mentor you when you were a performer on the show?

CY: From the Top truly helped me understand the human side of being a musician.  While the music making was always taken seriously, I had the chance to joke around about my practice habits or my daily life outside of being a violinist. I got to relate and learn from the fellow musicians that were on my show through their music and stories. There was no room for nerves, competitiveness or egos, just pure excitement and support for each other. From what I see today at From the Top, this atmosphere is still running strong.

FTT: What happened as a result of that mentoring?

CY: It really opened up my outlook on music.  I wasn’t stuck in my own “practice routine” anymore, but instead, I got curious about what it meant to be a musician rather than just a violinist. I started to relate to my friends at school who played other instruments like guitar or drums, which I always thought were WORLDS away from a violin. To their surprise as well, they started to relate to what I did on the violin (haha). Those barriers of being a certain kind of musician suddenly went away and a whole new world opened up to me. I give a lot of credit to my initial experience at From the Top for helping shape me into the musician I am today.


FTT: Why do you think it’s important that organizations like From the Top mentor young musicians?

CY: From the Top gives young artists a safe environment to express their life as a musician.  The show has always encouraged and supported their musicians and that kind of affection does create a chain reaction.  Not everyone that performs on the show ends up pursuing a career in music, but those universal lessons are an invaluable resource for any great young mind.


FTT: What advice would you give to young musicians who want to make a career in music?

CY: Be open-minded.  Be curious.  We will always be students in the great world of music, no matter how much we master our craft.  There is always more to learn and it will always push us to be better.


Tune in to From the Top with Guest Host Charles Yang and Pianist/Co-Host Peter Dugan by podcast and on participating stations during the week of February 18, 2019. Special thanks to the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek, Colorado for presenting this episode of From the Top.

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