Public radio listeners and classical music aficionados know Christopher O’Riley for his hosting duties on NPR’s From the Top—a showcase featuring young musicians that garners almost a million listeners a week—and his live performances with the country’s greatest orchestras. And alternative and indie rock fans might recognize the pianist’s name due to his tinkly reinterpretations of the music of Radiohead, Elliott Smith and Nick Drake, all of whom have received full-album tributes by O’Riley that are mercifully free of the usual cover-act mimicry and serve as portals to classical music for Coachella Nation.
For those hoping to hear him bang out “Paranoid Android” this Sunday, well, his Smith Center appearance isn’t about him. For the first time in its 18 seasons, the frequently traveling From the Top will record an episode in Las Vegas, highlighting six teen and pre-teen musicians performing various instruments (including voice). Two of those musicians hail from Las Vegas: bassoonist Jordan Farber, 16, of Las Vegas Academy of the Arts, who will perform Noël Gallon’s Récit et Allegro, and guitarist Parsa Sabet, 18, of Sierra Vista High School, who will have a go at both Francisco Tárrega’s Recuerdos de la Alhambra and Jorge Morel’s Danza in E Minor. The serious musical numbers (which might be accompanied by O’Riley himself) will be complemented by off-the-cuff interviews, profiles and even skits featuring the young prodigies, creating a lively mood ideal for introducing kids to some of the greatest music ever made—performed by their own peer group, no less.
From the Top February 25, 2 p.m., $19-$79. Smith Center’s Reynolds Hall, 702-749-2000.