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From Philadelphia to The Top!

The nationally syndicated public radio program From the Top features gifted young classical musicians from all over the country. They’re always super talented - and often very amusing as they chat with host Christopher O'Riley - which all adds up to great radio. More than 250 public radio stations broadcast the show.

Several musicians from the Philadelphia region were in the show’s spotlight on WRTI on November 16, 2014. WRTI’s Meridee Duddleston spoke with two of them - violinist Carolyn Semes who performs with Settlement Music School’s Gail W. Snitzer String Quartet, and Ray Seong Jin Han, a freshman at the Curtis Institute of Music.

Carolyn Semes is a high school student from Broomall who plays in one of a number of ensembles for advanced students at Settlement Music School in Philadelphia. Membership in the Snitzer String Quartet is by audition, and its make-up changes as students graduate from high school and move on.  

Sidney Curtiss, retired associate principal violist from The Philadelphia Orchestra, coaches the group, which he says exposes the students to the unique demands of chamber music.  In May, 2014, the quartet consisting of Beatrice Hsieh (violin), Joseph Burke (viola), Zachary Mowitz (cello) and Semes (violin) was awarded an Honorable Mention at the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition in Indiana.


Ray Seong Jin Han is a freshman at The Curtis Institute of Music. He took up the French horn at about age 13, after playing jazz guitar and percussion. Originally from Seoul, South Korea, his family lived in Vancouver for a time, and Ray finished high school as a student at Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan. 


As part of the From the Top recording session, host Christopher O’Riley accompanied Ray on the piano as they played “Reverie” by Alexander Glazunov.  Ray was a 2014 National YoungArts winner. The Snitzer Quartet from the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia, performs Introduction and the third movement, Allegro vivace, from String Quartet No. 1, Op. 7, by Béla Bartók (1881–1945).


Carolyn Semes comes from a musical family. She grew up playing the violin along with her three older sisters. Although the other members of the Snitzer String Quartet featured with her on FROM THE TOP have since graduated and are no longer in the group, Carolyn continues to play in the quartet.

Ray Seong Jin Han is a freshman at the Curtis Institute Music. He plays French horn, and was also featured on FROM THE TOP.

Sidney Curtiss is a violist who is retired from the Philadelphia Orchestra. He is the coach for several advanced string quartets at Settlement Music School, including the Gail W. Snitzer String Quartet.