Two IC high school students to appear on NPR

BY JON FRANK | APRIL 08, 2011 7:20 AM

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Until now, West High students Andrew Altmeier and Elizabeth Lin have performed in front of crowds no greater than 100 people.

But on April 16 and 17, more than 700,000 will hear their solos.

The 17-year-olds will apear on the NPR program “From the Top,” which features five pre-college musicians each week. The show broadcasts 20 shows each year.

“It’s definitely a great achievement, because it’s a very selective process,” said Erin MacCurtian, the director of communication for “From the Top.” “We look for a fairly high caliber in our young musicians.”

The majority of the nationwide pool of applicants for the show submit their auditions via the Internet. But through Iowa Makes Music, a program funded by the U.S. Department of Education that hosts live events and school visits led by teens, producers ended up hearing the young musicians live in the fall of 2010.

Altmeier, who plays the cello, has appeared on the show once before as an accompanist. Lin plays alto saxophone.

Producers recorded a live concert March 30 at the Gallagher Bluedorn in Cedar Falls. They also recorded an additional take during the dress rehearsal prior to the show at the Gallagher Bluedorn, in case of a mistake.

Prior to recording their performances, the West High students visited and performed at local elementary schools March 29 to encourage youngsters to take an interest in music.

“Some of the kids are so excited, and they want to hear you play,” said Altmeier, a junior. “You were having a profound effect on some of them.”

Lin agreed the tour was a positive experience.

“One of [the kids] came up to us afterward and asked for our autographs,” the senior said.

The students have been musicians for most of their lives.

Lin started with piano and violin when she was 5, but she didn’t care much for either instrument.

“I was just kind of playing the notes,” she said.

In fifth grade she picked up the alto saxophone. But her passion grew after she started taking private lessons in eighth grade, which is also when she was introduced to the piece she performed in Cedar Falls, “Prelude, Cadence, and Finale,” by Alfred Desenclos.

“I always really liked that piece, but I never thought I’d be able to play it,” she said.

Altmeier, on the other hand, has 13 years experience playing cello, and he also plays piano.

During his performance, the Iowa City native played the second movement of Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Sonata for Cello and Piano.” He was accompanied on piano by Christopher O’Riley — the host of “From the Top.”

Lin said her choice of school will determine her musical future. After high school, Altmeier is unsure what role music will play in his life.

“Next, I’m taking a break,” he said. “I have a feeling it’s going to be more of a hobby than a career.”

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