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Weekend Listen: Music and Friendship in the Rockies

This week’s show is the re-broadcast of Show 364 taped in Beaver Creek, Colorado last January 2019. We asked the show performers for their favorite memories of recording with co-hosts Charles Yang and Peter Dugan at the beautiful Vilar Performing Arts Center.


Flutist Scott Quirk from Los Angeles kicks things off with his reflections and short performance of Carnival of Venice:


Benjamin Lee reflects on his FTT experience

Benjamin Lee, erhu, from Byron, Minnesota recalls:

“The most extraordinary and fun experience I had on From the Top was performing Nina Simone’s Feeling Good with Peter Dugan, Charles Yang, and Charlotte. Although I had already explored many other musical genres on the erhu, this was my first blues piece ever! As the soul of the piece magically blurred the lines between our musical instruments, a wonderfully good feeling (pun intended) made me yearn for more.

Being on From The Top made me realize just how much I truly loved bringing erhu music to a worldwide audience. I realized how ready and even eager today’s listeners are for an instrument less familiar than the piano or violin. For the first time, I saw the potential I had to give the erhu its well-deserved spotlight on the global stage.

Being on Show #364 inspired me to help expand the erhu’s recognition by creating my own YouTube channel Erhu4All. Here, I share my passion and enjoyment of the erhu by performing both erhu classics and adaptations of modern pieces.

Thank you, From The Top, for giving me a once-in-a-lifetime jamming opportunity and inspiring me to move forward with making the erhu a global instrument of the future!


Charlotte Marckx, violin, from Bellevue, Washington recalls:

“My time with From the Top in Beaver Creek, Colorado was incredibly fun and inspirational!!! For me as a violinist who loves playing multi-genre music, working with cohost Charles Yang was absolutely a dream come true (one particular highlight was when he invited us all to join him impromptu on stage for our outreach concert and had us each take improv solos in his arrangement of Stand By Me!!).

It was also totally thrilling to perform Waxman’s Carmen Fantasy with Peter Dugan!!! Like most From the Top events, one of the highlights was meeting and getting to know other incredible young musicians—and I am lucky enough to still be friends with them today!!

From the Top has a unique way of making student performers feel like they have the potential to change the world through music. It is hard to believe one year has passed since the show, because I still feel the connections I made and the inspiration it gave me so vividly!”


Marc Soong remembers being on FTT

Marc Soong, piano from Alhambra, California says:

“The setting of Vail, Colorado, with its snow-capped Rockies, was the perfect place to experience the joy of music and camaraderie of fellow musicians for three extraordinary days. I am astonished by how much effort goes into a single one-hour show. On the first day, Gretchen, Charlotte, Scott, Ben, Gwenyth and I had a long talk about the word prodigy and how it implies that people attain ability through innate talent and not through hard and/or smart practicing. And I realized after that discussion that From The Top is a way of communicating that our playing doesn’t come from some ability that we musicians already have.

In another instance, before the show began, a few of us found ourselves in a discussion of Russian Literature.  I’m not even sure how we started talking about that topic, but it just happened, and it was so engaging to hear what everyone had read and what their reactions were to certain works that I studied in my Russian Lit course. Of course musicians are multifaceted, and that will be reflected in their interviews, but it was really special to share other common interests besides music.

On the last day, I was amazed by how many of the elementary students at Vail played an instrument, and to witness their laughter at our antics (where we were trying to mimic UFOs, birds, and haunted houses with our instruments) was truly a delight. In the middle of our “Feeling Good” performance, Peter encouraged me to improvise on the piano instead of passively turning the pages. I was nervous, and I still hid behind Peter’s accompanying; yet, when I heard the entire school clapping to the rhythm, it was impossible for me to not acknowledge how music brings everyone together, as cliche as that may sound.

Even though we worked so long on the show, the moments that weren’t central to the broadcast performance are the moments I will cherish the most.”


Tune in this weekend, and be sure to subscribe to From the Top’s podcast so you never miss an episode.

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