The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music education: NPR gets rid of pianist Christopher O’Riley as a long-time host of “From the Top” | July 15, 2018

By Jacob Stockinger

If you are a fan of the award-winning program “From the Top” – which spotlights talented young classical musicians (below) and is broadcast weekly on National Public Radio (NPR) – you will want to know that this season is the last one for pianist Christopher O’Riley (below), who has hosted the show for the past 18 years.

NPR is not renewing his contract and O’Riley will NOT return for the 2018-19 season.

“From the Top” airs locally on Sunday nights — including tonight — at 8 p.m. on Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR).

You might recall that O’Riley — a gifted and award-winning pianist is his own right — has also played his own concerts in Madison.

Years ago, he played his solo piano transcriptions of rock songs by Radiohead at the Wisconsin Union Theater.

This past spring, he played a Mozart piano concerto to close the season of the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

For more about the 61-year-old O’Riley, here is a link to his biography on Wikipedia:

For the radio program, he accompanied some of the talented young classical musicians who were featured, and also provided short interludes of solo piano music, which were compiled on a CD several years ago.

For more about the show (below), go to: and view the YouTube video at the bottom, which features a behind-the-scenes look at the show:

Although it focuses on string players who have appeared on “From the Top,” here is a story, with many names and details, from The Violin Channel:

One thing worth mentioning is that O’Riley’s departure will NOT mark the end of the show. “From the Top” will continue with guest hosts, some of whom will be successful or famous alumni of the show.

What do you think of the news about Christopher O’Riley?

What do you think of “From the Top”?

What do you think of Christopher O’Riley as a host and a pianist?

The Ear wants to hear.


  1. I miss Christopher!


    Comment by Alma — March 18, 2023 @ 12:32 pm

  2. I’m very sorry that Christophe O’Reilly is no longer the host of From the Top. The guest hosts are good but they’re not the same as Mr. O’Reilly.


    Comment by Ann Young — August 31, 2020 @ 5:00 pm

  3. Sounds likea clear example of age discrimination and new managers at the top threatened by an effective team. Why change when the team is winning?


    Comment by Richard Friedman — January 14, 2020 @ 7:59 pm

  4. what a shame! The show will not be the same without him, You can’t replace a personality like that, so warm and engaging. It’s just not the same. I don’t listen to it anymore . It’s lost its charm. I’m tired of this kind of shenanigans. It happen with our gifted junior high school teacher. It was all about money,

    Joyce McWilliams, Soprano
    Professional soloist and vocal teacher.


    Comment by Joyce McWilliams — October 12, 2019 @ 10:22 pm

  5. I think he has done a good job. I was surprised at his reception when he played here with the orchestra. But who knows what the real reason is. Maybe he is glad to move on…..


    Comment by Eva Wright — July 15, 2018 @ 5:14 pm

  6. I am not sure ‘get rid of’ is a fair assessment of the situation, but if it is I will say the Christopher always impressed me with his musicianship and rapport with the young performers.


    Comment by Steve Holmes — July 15, 2018 @ 10:56 am

  7. WHY?????

    On Sat, Jul 14, 2018 at 10:00 PM, The Well-Tempered Ear wrote:

    > welltemperedear posted: “By Jacob Stockinger If you are a fan of the > award-winning program “From the Top” – which spotlights talented young > classical musicians (below) and is broadcast weekly on National Public > Radio (NPR) – you will want to know that this season is the last o” >


    Comment by Terry Baer — July 15, 2018 @ 8:17 am

  8. Sorry to be a blog pest, but you can share your thoughts (and read some great comments about this decision) here:…/posts/10156777566643606…

    Speak up, folks.


    Comment by KathyOtterson — July 15, 2018 @ 7:12 am

  9. A response to O’Reilly’s Facebook post about this “decision” – kinda says it all, really:

    “I’m so sad to read this! Playing with you when I was 14 was such a highlight of my life, and to be frank, you ARE “from the top” in my eyes. I’ll never forget that the young pianist on the same episode was without a teacher at the time, and you so kindly and softly chose to stay after rehearsal hours to give her a masterclass of sorts that she asked for. I hope you can find some empowerment elsewhere, and that you have an opportunity to continue working with younguns – you certainly leave us better than you found us!”

    I’ll say it again: bad move, NPR.


    Comment by KathyOtterson — July 15, 2018 @ 7:04 am

  10. Something stinks here.

    I cannot think of any shortcoming in O’Reilly’s handling of the show – from being a perceptive and friendly interviewer to collaborating with great sensitivity and professionalism – he seems to be everything one would look for in a host. Short-term guest hosts who have no time to build cameraderie with the audience will ruin this show.

    Bad move, NPR – and by the way – where is this story on your website?? Why are you burying it?


    Comment by KathyOtterson — July 15, 2018 @ 6:58 am

  11. I read of this in Norman Lebrecht’s blog, and O’Riley himself responded — frankly, it seemed to me like he was pretty bent out of shape by the announcement, calling it “patronizing and disingenuous”. It reminded me of the situation a few years back when NPR decided to terminate the “Chazen Live” series here in Madison, without even offering the courtesy of letting the hosts (Russell Panczenko; Perry Karp) know of their intentions. And there, too, the justification was something to the effect that we needed to expand into a statewide perspective, or some such vague pretext — pardon my cynicism, but I think both situations were prompted by self-serving agendas grounded in rawly financial considerations. I guess I’ll hope for the best, though — at least the shows DO go on.


    Comment by Tim Adrianson — July 15, 2018 @ 6:47 am

    • Wasn’t that WPR, not the same as NPR


      Comment by fflambeau — July 16, 2018 @ 12:17 am

  12. All things change, and I think he was with the show for 18 years. Good to hear it will continue. Your link also seems to imply he wanted to move on to other projects.


    Comment by fflambeau — July 15, 2018 @ 12:54 am

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