Two CCM-affiliated musicians will join the team of NPR’s popular classical music program From the Top as co-hosts and creatives. Congrats to violinists Tessa Lark and Charles Yang, who both took lessons with CCM Professor of Violin Kurt Sassmannshaus!

Tessa LarkLark from Richmond, Kentucky, participated in Sassmannshaus’ Starling Preparatory String Project at CCM. Since then, Lark has attended the New England Conservatory and the Juilliard School. She has been awarded a Borletti-Buitoni Trust Fellowship and an Avery Fisher Career Grant. Lark was the winner of the 2012 Naumburg International Violin Competition and the silver medalist at the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis.

Charles YangYang also studied violin with Sassmannshaus. Yang was the recipient of the 2018 Leonard Bernstein Award and is a member of the crossover string band Time for Three. Yang also attended Juilliard, and has performed as a soloist with orchestras and in concert in the U.S., Europe, Brazil, Russia, China and Taiwan.

Lark and Yang were previously featured in From the Top’s show 286, which was recorded in CCM’s Corbett Auditorium in April 2014. The episode featured a performance by the Starling Chamber Orchestra and young musicians from the Starling Preparatory String project along with “The Starling/From the Top Alumni Trio,” comprised of Lark, Yang and Jonathan Miron.

The hiring of Lark and Yang is part of larger changes at From the Top. Pianist Peter Dugan has been named the new permanent host of the program, starting with the 2020-21 season. Violinist Vijay Gupta and clarinetist Alex Laing join Lark and Yang as co-hosts, and pianist Orli Shaham will solo guest host.

All will interview and collaborate with the From the Top young musicians and will serve as mentors to the From the Top musicians. They will also be actively involved in leadership training, community engagement and career development programs. As strategic and collaborative partners, their insight and experience will help to inform future development of From the Top.

For the past 20 years, From the Top has featured performances and stories of young classically-trained musicians, and continues to provide a national platform that showcases and supports the next generation of emerging classical artists, from live concert tapings to leadership training and community engagement programs.

About From the Top

From the Top is an independent non-profit organization that supports, develops, and shares the artistic voices and stories of young classically-trained musicians. Through its primary platform, a weekly one-hour NPR radio broadcast, and nationally-recognized arts leadership programs, From the Top amplifies the hope, passio, and discipline of today’s extraordinary young musicians.

From the Top provides young musicians with live performance opportunities in premier concert venues across the country, national exposure to nearly half a million listeners on its weekly NPR show, leadership and community engagement preparation and more than $3 million in scholarships since 2005.

From the Top’s programs are made possible in part by an award from the National Endowment of the Arts, a grant from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, generous contributions from individuals and institutions and partnerships with radio stations nationwide.

About the Starling Preparatory String Project

Founded in 1987 by CCM Professor Kurt Sassmannshaus, the Starling Preparatory String Project is a specialized honors program training young string students. The program is generously funded through a grant by the Dorothy Richard Starling Foundation. The superbly talented musicians perform as the Starling Chamber Orchestra and are selected by audition.

Students receive one hourly lesson per week, and take music theory, chamber music and orchestra each Saturday. Instructors include CCM faculty and graduate students specially trained and chosen by Professor Sassmannshaus. Most of the students are from the greater Cincinnati area, and many others commute on Saturdays from other states. SCO has a concert series at Robert J. Werner Recital Hall at CCM and tours regularly. For more information on the Starling Preparatory String Project, visit

Story by CCM Graduate Student Alexandra Doyle

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