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Walnut Hill School for the Arts celebrates 125-year anniversary on ‘From the Top’

Celina Colby
Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Walnut Hill School for the Arts celebrates 125-year anniversary on ‘From the Top’
Cellist Tony Rymer. PHOTO: KEVIN KENNEDY

Dorchester native Tony Rymer is a true Boston success story. The cellist began his career at age 5 and studied with the Walnut Hill School for the Arts and through a scholarship with Project STEP to hone his skills. Now he lives in Berlin and plays concerts all over the world. On Sunday, Feb. 3, Rymer will return to Boston with several other Walnut Hill alums and current students to perform for a live recording of NPR’s show “From the Top.”

The performance celebrates the 125th anniversary of the Walnut Hill School for the Arts, an independent high school in Natick emphasizing the arts. The school was founded in 1893 by two Wellesley College graduates and served as a boarding school for girls for more than 80 years. Even then, the arts were at the forefront of Walnut Hill’s educational programming. The school became co-educational in the 1970s and has been spreading music education and experience to students from all over the country, and globe, since. Rymer says, “Walnut Hill and my training in Boston gave me everything I needed to have my current career.”

Going places

Pianist Taylor Wang, a junior at Walnut Hill, has been studying piano for 13 years and hopes to go on to a professional career. She also notes that Walnut Hill offers more than just musical education. “Because it’s a boarding school, there’s an aspect of independence and learning to manage your time,” she says.

This episode of “From the Top” will take place at the New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall. NEC has fostered a decades-long partnership with Walnut Hill. According to NEC, Walnut Hill’s music department is the only high school program in the country linking a major conservatory (NEC) with an independent school.

Rymer is an alumnus of all the organizations involved; he completed his bachelor of music and master of music degrees at the New England Conservatory and was one of the first recipients of the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship award on “From the Top.” His last appearance on the show was in 2005, and Rymer is excited to come back. “I think it will be a lot of fun to play with old friends from Walnut Hill and to see the new generation of musicians,” he says.

Guest host Lawrence Gilliard Jr., an actor (“The Wire” and “The Deuce”) and Juilliard-trained clarinetist, will facilitate the segment, which highlights young musicians who are still training at Walnut Hill as well as the graduates, like Rymer, who are flying in for the occasion. The recorded segment will air on participating stations and by podcast during the week of March 11.

Tickets are free for students and start at $15 for adults. They can be purchased online. Rymer hopes that the accessible event highlighting young musicians will encourage others to pursue their dreams. He says, “I hope the audience feels inspired.”

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