Interview With From The Top's Christopher O'Riley

May 9, 2007

Christopher O’Riley is a classical pianist who studied at the New England Conservatory of Music. He has received awards at the Leeds, Van Cliburn, Busoni, and Montreal competitions, as well as an Avery Fisher Career Grant. O'Riley has made many recordings of classical music. including works of Maurice Ravel, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Jean-Philippe Rameau, John Adams, Igor Stravinsky, and Alexander Scriabin. He is also the host of the weekly National Public Radio program "From the Top," on which young musicians are heard and interviewed. In this interview, O'Riley talks about how the children featured on the program are the emissaries of classical music, and how their musical ability shines in otherwise normal childhood helps to build empathy with listeners. [audio src=""] Highlights From This Interview: "The thought behind the program is that in pre-college-age musicians, there's quite a lot of variety with the seriousness with which they might be pursuing music as a career. One had the impression that the type of media attention lavished on, say, high school athletes was quite a lot more magnificent than that lavished on teenage musicians. The kids on our show are a very good example. They are emissaries of the music, but they also have a normal childhood. It's that kind of idea - getting the personalities of the performers across to the listening audience that will make a sort of empathetic response." "When we were first starting, we were only known to some of the larger music academies: Julliard Prep would always send us people, or Chestnut Hill in Boston. But, even though we weren't too well known on a national basis, we were also still getting a lot of guests from lots of small towns all over the country, which spoke quite eloquently and enthusiastically to the idea that regardless of music's position in the public school system, there's been a private network of music teaching all over the country that's been doing a phenomenal job or preparing musicians." "What makes being with the kids and 'From The Top' so fresh to me is just being open to the possibility of dancing with different partners - different senses of vibrato. different senses of phrasing - that always teaches me something new."