Wagner, High Notes, and a Ghost in Atlanta

Yuqing Meng

Yuqing Meng's talent is winning him awards. From the Top hide caption

itoggle caption From the Top
Stefani Collins

Stefani Collins inherited her love of the fiddle from her mother, a violin teacher. From the Top hide caption

itoggle caption From the Top
Gabriel Cabezas

Performing with important orchestras has given 14-year-old cellist Gabriel Cabezas a taste of the life of a pro musician. From the Top hide caption

itoggle caption From the Top
James Danner

Tenor James Danner got his early training in the Metropolitan Opera Children's Chorus. From the Top hide caption

itoggle caption From the Top

This week, the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta, Georgia hosts From the Top's young musicians, including the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra performing Wagner, a 17-year-old violinist playing a graceful rag by William Bolcom, and a talented teen sings Gounod. This segment originally aired on May 2, 2007.

Tenor James Danner's love for vocal music blossomed at age five after his mother won a singing lesson for him at an auction. The director of the Metropolitan Opera Children's Chorus, who gave the lesson, was impressed with young James. "She asked me to join the chorus," he recalls. "From that point on, opera and classical music have been an integral part of my life." Danner, 16, sings Où voulez-vous aller? by Charles Gounod.

Yuqing Meng, 16, recently had the honor of winning first place in a piano competition. His teacher Veda Kaplinsky of The Juilliard School has good advice about competitions. "She says we shouldn't feel devastated if we don't win, because competitions are sometimes fair and sometimes not. Devastation can keep you from moving forward and it's important to keep a positive attitude." Meng's attitude has already won him several awards. He plays York Bowen's Toccata.

At an age when most toddlers throw tantrums over toys, the two-year-old Stefani Collins cried over not spending enough time practicing her pint-sized violin. "I know it's weird," Collins says, "but I've just always loved to practice!" Now an accomplished seventeen-year-old violinist, Collins plays Graceful Ghost, a rag by William Bolcom.

Since winning the 2006 Sphinx Competition, 14-year-old cellist Gabriel Cabezas' life has been busy. "I've been doing a lot of performing and touring," he says. "I've played with the Florida Symphony and New World Symphony, and I was also very lucky to be able to play with the Cleveland Orchestra a few months ago. Now that was an intimidating experience!" Cabezas plays the Andante from Rachmaninoff's Cello Sonata.

The Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra (ASYO), conducted by Jere Flint, is made up of 120 talented high school teenagers — aged 13 to 18 — from Atlanta and northern Georgia. Occasionally, they get to rehearse with the members of the Atlanta Symphony. ASYO violinist Elizabeth Ehrlich says she learns a lot, but playing with the pros can be scary. "When you have to play passages on your own," she says, "there's nowhere to hide!" The ASYO performs the Prelude to Act Three of Wagner's Lohengrin.

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