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This past October, dozens of young classical musicians descended upon KNPR’s studios for a day of auditions. The prize: a spot on the NPR classical music show, "From the Top."
Two local musicians, guitarist Parsa Sabet and bassoonist Jordan Farber, impressed the judges so much that they were chosen to appear in a taping. And for the first time ever, that "From the Top" taping will be held in Las Vegas – at the Smith Center this coming Sunday.
Both Parsa and Jordan are thrilled to get a chance to perform in front of a national audience.
"We sort of like big fish in a small pond," Jordan said, "We don't have as many opportunities as our peers in New York and L.A."
Neither Parsa nor Jordan have been life-long learners of music. Both of them started playing their instruments when they were around 11 or 12. Jordan started with the clarinet, but after deciding it was not the instrument for him, he switched to the bassoon.
Parsa started playing guitar as part of a summer music program with some friends but it wasn't long before playing the instrument became his passion.
"After a few months, I thought this is what I'm going to do for the rest of my life," he said, "I never had to think about changing this because my instrument became a part of me."
Both young musicians said that the more they played the more they developed a love of music and a passion for playing.
"When I first started, I was always driven," Jordan said, "It shifted immediately from way down on my priority list to all the way up to the top. That was the most important thing in my life."
That passion for music shone through in their auditions for "From the Top" said scholarship and recruitment manager Javier Caballero.
"When we heard both Jordan and Parsa, you could tell right away that they not only have something to say but they really showed a passion for their instrument," he said.
Erin Nolan is the music producer for "From the Top." She said the overall level of musicality in young people in this country is incredible and is getting better and better, which means that the students who actually get on the show must bring a nuisance to the piece of music.
"To me, I want to hear their voice," Nolan said, "What are they saying through the music? What is grabbing me? Do they take me on a journey? Do I hear them in the music? That is going to grab me a lot more than if it's perfect."
"From the Top" is more than just one of the most widely listened to shows on the NPR network.
The organization also does outreach in communities and mentors and nurtures young musicians - even if they're not ready to appear on the show.
Caballero is the scholarship manager for the show, which gives out around 20 scholarships of about $10,000 a year to fund music education.
"One of the challenges is the high cost with instruments and lessons," he said, "This scholarship is meant to address the fact that there are students out there that have the talent but there are financial challenges and the scholarship is meant to do that."
Parsa Sabet, 18, guitarist and senior at Sierra Vista High School; Jordan Farbar, 16, bassoonist and junior at Las Vegas Academy; Erin Nolan, music producer, "From the Top"; Javier Caballero, scholarship and recruitment manager, "From the Top," Myron Martin, executive director, The Smith Center