McCallie School's guitar quartet will perform with some of the nation's top, classically trained, student musicians tonight, Jan. 23, when "From the Top" tapes one of its radio shows in the Tivoli Theatre.
The National Public Radio show celebrates the talent and success stories of classical musicians between the ages of 8 and 19. Its broadcasts air on WSMC-FM 90.5, the classical station at Southern Adventist University in Collegedale.
A half-dozen musical acts will perform in tonight's showcase, with one coming from as far as Texas and another from Ohio just for this chance to record a piece for NPR's preeminent youth showcase. The only other East Tennessean to be included is pianist Mayuki Miyashita from Maryville.
The McCallie guitar quartet features senior Ralston Hartness, juniors Matthew Norris and Drew Shikoh, and sophomore Griff Jayne. These four have played together for one year, although the school has offered the ensemble for 10 years, says director Charles Evans.
Evans says he has twice submitted audition tapes to "From the Top" for the school's guitar ensemble, but this is the first time one of its quartets has been accepted.
Evans says that while the audience can see firsthand the teens' polished presentation, he believes radio listeners will also be impressed by their musicianship.
"They are playing a new arrangement of an old Appalachian tune, 'Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair,' " says Evans. "These four have a certain chemistry that seems to produce an expressive musical performance. They are passionate about the music they are playing."
Hartness says the guys usually rehearse 90 minutes twice a week, but for this show they have upped rehearsals to three times a week. However, their lives don't revolve around classical guitar; they have other musical pursuits as well.
"Drew has a rock band, Quarter Life Crisis, and he writes music. He plays electric guitar. They're good, they've played at McCallie for some things," says Hartness. He adds that he likes acoustic folk music and plays for his church youth group.
Hartness says the "coolest and the hardest" part of this performance is that they only get one shot, one piece, to show what they can do. He says they know what an opportunity and a blessing it is to be on this show.
"There are so many who audition and so few chosen," says the senior.
Lucas Patterson, editorial manager of Southern Adventist University, says the Chattanooga Youth Symphony and Southern's Symphony Orchestra will play before "From the Top" starts taping. In addition, the generosity of local donors has made it possible for about 100 at-risk students from East Lake and Orchard Knob middle schools to enjoy the performance at no cost.
Contact Susan Pierce at email@example.com or 423-757-6284.
Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...