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ProMusica concert showcases top young talent
Leah Craft

On National Public Radio’s "From the Top," students from around the country get the chance to show their talents when the radio show rolls into town.

Unfortunately, the Gainesville area has yet to be featured on the program — so Gainesville ProMusica has stepped in to fill that void.

The third concert in their annual series this year will feature nine area students whose talents include classical piano, violin, oboe and marimba, a percussion instrument. The young artists will perform Tuesday at Brenau University’s Pearce Auditorium.

"We wanted to emulate ("From the Top") in some way and engage the top eschelon of young musical talent in the area," said Michael Henry, vice president of ProMusica. "So we devised this Little Carnegie Hall program and we sent out promotional materials from Atlanta on up, soliciting applications for this type of concert."

The group received about 40 applications for the concert, which included recordings or DVD of young musicians ages 8-18. In November, those initial applicants were narrowed to 15 during an evening of live performance at Lanier Village Estates, Henry said. During that performance, Scott Fugate of 89.1 WBCX-FM served as the emcee and an audition committee from ProMusica evaluated the students and narrowed the field to nine, who will be performing on Tuesday.

Performers include Kelsey Adams, 17, a senior at Jackson County Comprehensive High School who is also dual enrolled at the University of Georgia, where she has played in the UGA Steel Drum Band, Tropical Breeze; Leah Craft, 17 of Habersham County who began studying oboe at age 10, was chosen to play in the Georgia All-State Middle School Band in the sixth-grade and since then has held the first chair spot in the All-State Band/Orchestra; and Josh Cribbs, 16, and brother Ryan, 14, of Flowery Branch who have been playing piano since age 3.

Ryan said he and his brother will be performing a duet, "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2" by Franz List, which they first learned at a camp in Memphis, Tenn.

"We thought it would be fun to do. We’ve played it many times at many performances," Ryan said. He will also be performing Opus 36 by himself.

The brothers practice piano for at least two hours every day, they said, and Josh also plays violin, which requires at least another hour or so of practice time each day.

Their home is outfitted with a piano along with a full-size keyboard that allows both brothers to practice at the same time, one with headphones and one without.

The keyboard comes in handy when working on a new piece, Josh said, allowing one brother to work on finger techniques in virtual silence while the other is working on the finishing touches on the piano.

It’s this dedication and talent, Henry said, that will finally have an outlet in the Little Carnegie Hall concert.

"The level of ability of these kids, of these young people, in the words of (longtime East Hall High band director) Mercer Crook, ‘Some of these kids are scary in their ability,’" Henry said. "I don’t want to use the word awesome because it’s used for everything. It’s truly remarkable and inspiring and truly frightening."

In addition to providing a venue for the young artists to show their talents, ProMusica is also giving away $5,000 in music scholarships that night, too.

"We would love to see NPR come to our area and let us do a ‘From the Top’ here," Henry said.

This concert is the third and final one for this year’s ProMusica series, Henry said. This year’s season, by focusing the third concert on up-and-coming musicians, further keeps the concerts in line with ProMusica’s aim of exposing more area children to the arts. Usually, Henry said, one concert each season includes a special daytime performance geared specifically for schoolchildren.

"We book Pearce (Auditorium) for all day, and the performers, who are the same performers which will give the evening concert, they will give an abridged, educational and often interactive type of program for schoolchildren," Henry said.

"That’s one aspect of the organization’s overall mission; it really includes a lot of good things for children. All ProMusica concerts, we always admit children and students free of charge," he added.

But like many worthy arts organizations in Hall County, ProMusica also needs the support of the business community — as well as individuals — in order to keep quality performers coming in.

Donations to the group may be made on its Web site, www.

"There are lots of good things Gainesville has going in the arts, but this stands out as something different and unique."