Meet the Gala Performers

Sandra Bailey (bassoon), 19, is from Atlanta, Georgia, and now attends Northwestern University, where she studies bassoon performance with Chris Millard and Lewis Kirk. Since appearing on From the Top last spring and receiving From the Top’s Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award, Sandra has participated in Boston University’s Tanglewood Institute of Music and was selected for a two-year fellowship program at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In high school, Sandra was a principal bassoonist for the Atlanta Youth Wind Symphony, the Georgia All-State Orchestra, and the Georgia District Honor Band.


Noah Lee (cello), 12, is from Oakland, New Jersey and performed on From the Top's radio show at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. this past October. He attends Heights Elementary School and studies the cello with Minhye Clara Kim at the Juilliard School’s Pre-College Division. Noah is a member of the Juilliard String Ensemble and has taken master classes with Steven Isserlis and Fred Sherry.




Simone Porter (violin), 15, is from Seattle, Washington. She first performed on From the Top's radio show in 2007 and later was featured on the Emmy Award winning season of From the Top at Carnegie Hall on PBS. Simone was named a 2011 Davidson Fellow, receiving $50,000 for her violin portfolio, and performed in the 2010 TEDxRedmond conference. In 2009, Simone was featured in the BBC documentary series “The World’s Greatest Musical Prodigies” and a year later performed in the Great Eastern International Kids Performing Festival “Prodigies of the World” concert along with From the Top alumnus Nathan Chan.


Aleksandr (“Sasha”) Voinov (pianist/composer), 14, lives in Sewickley, Pennsylvania and performed on From the Top in his hometown of Pittsburgh in February of this year. He is home schooled through the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School and attends the City Music Center for his musical studies. Outside of the center, he studies piano with Natasha Snitkovsky. He began creating music at the age of six and a year later won his first composition award. Sasha has participated in the Advanced Chamber Music Seminar and the PFMC Beethoven Sonatas Master Class.


The Meshugene Quartet is coached by Allan Dennis, founder of Midwest Young Artists. The Illinois-based ensemble is comprised of 15-year-old violinist Rachel Stenzel from Holiday Hills, 18-year-old violinist Lisa Chertok from Vernon Hills, 18-year-old violist Ariel Chapman from Lincolnshire, and 15-year-old cellist Christopher Gao from Long Grove. The quartet recently placed first in the Rembrandt Chamber Players High School Chamber Music Competition. Last year, they won the Midwest Young Artists Discover National Chamber Music Competition. They performed on From the Top’s broadcast taping in Ogden, Utah this March.


From the Top Alumni Trio Featuring:


Caeli Smith (violin), 20, born in Philadelphia, is a student at The Juilliard School, where she studies with Ronald Copes and Catherine Cho. Caeli made her soloist debut at age ten with the Philadelphia Classical Symphony, and has since soloed with numerous orchestras. She has collaborated with a wide range of musicians in recital and chamber music settings, including pianists André Watts and Christopher O'Riley, and soprano Julianne Baird. Caeli has performed multiple times on From the Top, as both a soloist (on radio and TV) and a chamber musician. She also served for three years as a traveling cast member in the role of From the Top's "Roving Reporter." An active journalist, Caeli has worked as an intern for Her print articles have appeared in Strings and Teen Strings magazines.


Michael Thurber (double bass/composer), 25, is from La Salle, Michigan and appeared on From the Top multiple times, including a radio episode taped in Winona Lake, Indiana when he was 18 and a radio broadcast taped in Granville, Ohio, where he performed alongside banjo player Béla Fleck. Michael was the first undergraduate to be accepted into Juilliard’s Classical and Jazz Divisions. He has recently worked on the score for the four-minute short “The Story of Sushi,” which was featured on the websites of NPR, the Huffington Post, and more. Michael, who embraces innovative arts teaching, has taught classes in schools nationwide. He recently recorded a tribute song for From the Top.


Charles Yang (violin), 23, is originally from Austin, Texas and recently graduated from the Juilliard School. He first appeared on From the Top's radio show in Austin, Texas at age 14, and later performed on From the Top’s first television season on PBS. Last year, Charles performed again on From the Top in Monterey, California alongside ukulele player Jake Shimabukuro. Charles has traveled the world for his recital performances from Carnegie Hall to the Forbidden City in Beijing. He is featured in the book Driven: Six Incredible Musical Journeys by Nick Romeo.