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Creating a Vibrant From the Top Alumni Network

The view from our audition room at Aspen Music Festival and School. Credit: Gretchen Nielsen

When we travel to hold auditions, we are as excited to meet new young musicians as we are to catch up with our fast-growing network of alumni in that area. This past July, Executive Director Gretchen Nielsen, Director of Development & External Relations Emily Borababy, and Scholarship and Recruitment Manager Javier Caballero held auditions at Aspen Music Festival in Aspen, Colorado and the Music@Menlo festival in Atherton, California. In both locations, the trio also invited From the Top alumni from the region to gather and connect with each other. On July 21, they met with seven alumni (Colin Aikins, Antonio Ajero, Maya Buchanan, Michael Ferri, Sam Glicklich, Will McGregor, and Marc Soong) attending Aspen Music Festival, and two days later in Palo Alto, they met with Cameron Akioka, Jack and Elle Davisson, Ophir Horovitz, Eric Wang, and Pierce Wang at the home of Jack and Elle’s parents, Monica and Will Davisson. 

From the Top alumni at Aspen Music Festival! From left to right, top to bottom: Sam Glicklich, Javier Caballero, Antonio Ajero, Gretchen Nielsen, Colin Aikins, Marc Soong, William McGregor, Maya Buchanan, Emily Borababy, and Michael Ferri. Credit: Javier Caballero

At both gatherings, the first topic of conversation was on which show each alum had performed. While some of the alumni knew each other, others were meeting for the first time. Nevertheless, all of them were immediately able to bond over stories from their experiences on the show. Emily and Gretchen then introduced themselves and shared what we had been up to this past year, which included sixteen successful shows in the 2018-2019 season featuring thirteen acclaimed guest hosts, the selection of Amir Siraj and Eunice Lee as recipients of the 2019 Alumni Leadership Grant, and the release of several music videos, two of which were included in WQXR’s “Favorite Internet Moments of 2018.” 

The conversation eventually shifted to our plans to create and maintain a robust alumni network by holding regional social gatherings, inviting alumni to participate in arts leadership projects, and creating mentorship opportunities for them. Being in the company of such enthusiastic alumni, Gretchen, Emily, and Javier then asked them for their feedback and ideas. The alumni were eager to connect with other alums as both mentors and mentees, and in line with learning from and supporting one another, they suggested that we create a forum where they could share audition postings and job opportunities.

We were particularly delighted to hear that almost all of them declared the arts leadership they participated in back when they were on the show to be their favorite part of the experience, and they wanted to have more opportunities to partake in arts leadership and community engagement activities in the future. 

“Our alumni are some of our most valuable resources and we want to make sure that we continue fulfilling our mission by celebrating them and helping them continue on their path to excellence. We are so excited to connect with them and see that their passion for From the Top’s mission is clear and undeniable. We will continue to build upon the wonderful community that we have created in the past twenty years for the next twenty and beyond.” – Javier Caballero, From the Top’s Scholarship and Recruitment Manager

From the Top alumni in Palo Alto! From left to right, Eric Wang, Cameron Akioka, Pierce Wang, Elle Davisson, Jack Davisson, and Ophir Horovitz. Credit: Javier Caballero

Performing on the show and participating in our arts leadership programs is a definitive milestone in all of our young musicians’ musical careers and personal development. When they emerge from the experience, their passion to create a positive impact with their music is what inspires us to ensure that they have the connections and knowledge to do so. After meeting with these alumni, we were thrilled to hear that whether they appeared on the show ten years ago or within the last ten months, all of them remembered their experiences with great fondness and were genuinely excited to not only stay in touch with each other and From the Top but also work with one another meaningfully to enhance their communities. 

To our alums: click here to join our FTT Alumni Facebook group, and if your contact information has changed, let us know in the form below! 

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