Most Sunday afternoons, it works out that the Copley family is in the car, headed from church to home or doing some errands, when this kids’ show comes on the radio.
On it, teens and pre-teens express their desires for Mini Coopers, talk about their admiration for Hannah Montana, play silly games and, on many occasions, giggle incessantly.
They also play classical music so amazingly well that if you tune in midway through a piece, you’ll probably be surprised to hear, when it’s over, that you were listening to a 12-year-old.
Sunday we have the chance to tune in and hear local kid-made-good Joseph Hudson, a trombone player from Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. Hudson will play Arthur Pryor’s Thoughts of Love, and we’ll hear what else happens to him under O’Riley’s spotlight — or, we should say, happened, since the program was recorded in Cleveland on Dec. 14. His brother, trumpeter Caleb, could have briefed him on what to expect because Caleb appeared on the show several years ago.
One of the great things about From the Top, of course, is that it gives young musicians a national stage for their talent, on a weekly basis. We have plenty of pedestals like this for students who excel in sports and, once a year, in spelling. High-achieving kids in other academic and artistic areas rarely get this kind of exposure, though they work every bit as hard as student athletes.
Sweetening the deal is that From the Top works hard to bring out the regular kid in its guests.
There was a show last year during which O’Riley challenged a girl not to giggle for a minute. If she made it, the prize was a new Mini Cooper. She, of course, did not make it, but she got the prize anyway: a scale model of a Mini Cooper.
The show frequently makes fun of its modest budget, introducing the “Quartet Feud” game show, saying, “There are no fabulous prizes.”
When the competing Quartets tied in the Family Feud-style game, O’Riley awarded the prize, an encore, to the girl group because, “Guys, your piece was twice as long as the girls’, and the girls definitely have hotter outfits. Girls, play us out.”
It’s fun, even when being serious about music. “Quartet Feud” featured questions about quartet groups, and in answers, they got to talk about things such as practice techniques as well as first violinists who play too loud.
From the Top shatters the image of the hermetic, nerdy high school classical musician. And while it’s true that there are no new cars, the show does make significant contributions to many of its guests’ studies. Joseph Hudson is one of 25 students receiving one of From the Top’s $10,000 Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Awards, which he will use to further his studies at Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan next year.
The award provides an enduring glow to the thrill of being in the spotlight. For us in the audience, it’s a fun chance to listen to exceptionally talented and bright teens, such as the Hudson kids.