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From The Top
17-Year-Old Percussionist Wins Carnegie Hall and From the Top’s Big Break!
Marcelina Suchocka, 17, from Chicago, Illinois was selected by popular vote as the Grand Prize winner of the Big Break YouTube contest – an online competition sponsored by From the Top and Carnegie Hall for America’s best young classical musicians. The Big Break contest offered young musicians the chance to compete for a spot on NPR's From the Top radio broadcast, hosted by Christopher O'Riley, as well as an opportunity to grace the stage at Carnegie Hall, performing in a Carnegie Hall Family Concert in Zankel Hall.

Ms. Suchocka is a student at Chicago's Whitney M. Young Magnet High School and is also a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Percussion Scholarship Program. She was selected from a pool of hundreds of classical musicians who submitted videos to the Big Break contest between October 18 and November 18.

The contestants ranged in age from 8-18 and participated on a variety of solo instruments including piano, bassoon, harp, voice, violin, cello, bass, marimba, and recorder.

On November 29, Ms. Suchocka and 14 other finalists were selected by From the Top and Carnegie Hall to be part of a public vote between November 29 and December 14. Her winning performance of an excerpt from Anders Koppel's Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra can be viewed at

"Although my piece might not seem favorable to others because it's a movement of a percussion concerto, I submitted it anyway because it portrayed who I am the best and I had so much fun playing it. It's exciting, driving, and kind of all over the place... like me," says Ms. Suchocka.

On December 16 it was declared that Ms. Suchocka was the grand-prize winner as determined by public vote.

As Big Break's grand-prize winner, Ms. Suchocka will appear on a national radio broadcast this spring of NPR's From the Top, hosted by Christopher O'Riley. The episode will be taped on Sunday, April 10 before a studio audience at The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space, the multiplatform, acoustically superb performance venue of Classical 105.9 FM WQXR, New York City's sole dedicated classical music station.

The previous day, on Saturday, April 9, she will perform at a Carnegie Hall Family Concert in Zankel Hall, produced in partnership with From the Top and hosted by Mr. O'Riley.

When asked about winning, Ms. Suchocka admits, "I was in complete shock, especially because I didn't even expect to make it to the finals. I have never performed in Carnegie Hall, and knowing that my teacher, who plays in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, has performed there several times was all the more incredible. I felt so appreciated and accomplished."

Three runners-up have also been selected to appear on the From The Top national broadcast and Carnegie Hall Family Concert: 16-year-old pianist Gideon Broshy (New York, NY); 16-year-old cellist Brannon Cho (Short Hills, NJ); and 14-year-old harpist Helen Gerhold (Landsdale, PA).

Ms. Gerhold says, "This contest was different because you are competing with other people who have as long as they want to make the "perfect" video. I chose [my] piece because it one of the well-known harp pieces in the harp repertoire. I loved the piece and it was technically challenging."

Mr. Broshy echoes, "The competition was different in that it made me engage everyone I know-- friends and family--in supporting me, but also exposed my playing to complete strangers."

Mr. Cho agreed that "self-advertisement and popularity was key to receiving the Grand Prize. I have never heard of a classical music competition that required public votes, so this was a very interesting experience."

The special episode of From The Top's weekly series, featuring Big Break's Grand Prize Winner and runners-up, will air on participating NPR stations later in the spring.