Taping it From The Top

matt aucoin at piano

Matt Aucoin rehearses with 17-year-old violinist Yuki Beppu from Lexington, Mass. Photo by Rachel Gianatasio/PEM

Thirteen years ago, Matthew Aucoin submitted a collection of original orchestral arrangements to From the Top in the hopes of being featured on the nationally broadcasted public radio show. When producers replied, asking for more mainstream material, the young composer’s immediate thought was, “They hate me!” With his 10-year-old pride crushed, Aucoin never attempted to apply to the program again.

History came full circle this June, however, when Aucoin — now PEM’s Composer-in-Residence — was featured as a guest artist during a taping of the show in PEM’s Morse Auditorium. In an interview with acclaimed host Christopher O’Riley, Aucoin assured the audience that he bore no grudges and then went on to perform two original works from his Celan Fragments, accompanied by 17-year-old violinist Yuki Beppu.


Photo by Rachel Gianatasio/PEM

Broadcast on 250 stations nationwide to an audience of more than 700,000 listeners, From the Top celebrates the talents of young musicians between the ages of 8 and 18.


Fourteen-year-old pianist Andrew Li from Lexington, Massachusetts, rehearses Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6 in D-flat major, S.244/6, by Franz Liszt (1811–1886). Photo by Rachel Gianatasio/PEM

Each week, O’Riley invites students of the classical genre to share their music and their experiences on stage. Producers of the show took advantage of the museum setting by focusing on the relationship between classical music and visual art. In between pre-show rehearsals, the young musicians toured the museum with curator Trevor Smith in search of a work of art they felt corresponded to their performance. They revealed their selections to O’Riley and the audience during the taping.

The artists of Quartet Fuoco, who performed the fifth movement of Bartók’s String Quartet No. 4, chose Door by artists Richard Hunt and John Livingston for its vibrant colors and relationship to folk tales.


Door, 1984. Richard Hunt (Kwakwaka’wakw (Kwakiutl), birth 1951); John Livingston (Adopted Kwakwaka’wakw (Kwakiutl), birth 1951). Wood, paint, brass. Pacific Northwest Coast. Gift of Dr. Daniel and Jacqueline Rosenthal, 2008


Quartet Fuoco rehearses. They are 17-year-old violinist Rachel Stenzel from Holiday Hills, Illinois;16-year-old violinist Aidan Perreault from Skokie, Illinois;18-year-old violist David Berghoff from Chicago, Illinois;17-year-old cellist Christopher Gao from Long Grove, Illinois. Photo by Rachel Gianatasio/PEM

Pianist Andrew Li, 14, drew parallels between Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody and Fitz Henry Lane’s painting Twilight on the Kennebec. Soprano Katherine Leidlein found inspiration in one of the ship’s figureheads in East India Marine Hall for her mournful and enchanting performance of Henri Duparc’s Chanson triste.


Eigtheen-year-old soprano Katherine Leidlein from Lake Jackson, Texas, chose this figurehead from PEM’s East India Marine Hall.


Katherine Leidlein rehearses with pianist Christopher O’Riley. Photo by Rachel Gianatasio/PEM

The PEM episode of From the Top aired in the Boston area Sunday, September 28. To complement the show, images of the companion artworks selected by the performers are available to view on the From the Top website (fromthetop.org). Listen to the complete show HERE.

Matt Aucoin returns to PEM January 10, 2015. Stay tuned for details. PEM’s music initiative is supported by Eunice and Jay Panetta and by the Robert N. Shapiro Fund for Innovation. 



Scout Hutchinson is an editorial intern in the Creative Services Department. She graduated from the University of Vermont, where she studied English and costume design. Scout enjoys taking photographs and looking at, reading about and writing about art. She is very happy to be spending time in Salem, her hometown, and interning at one of her favorite museums. And yes, her nickname comes from where you think it does.

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