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Hughson harpist featured on NPR’s ‘From the Top’
viviana alfaro
Viviana Alfaro - photo by Photo Contributed

Local musician Viviana Alfaro, a 17-year-old harpist from Hughson, will be part of National Public Radio’s “From the Top” program during its special three-week broadcast festival.

“For over 20 years, ‘From the Top’ has built an impressive platform to celebrate the music, lives, and stories of youngsters playing classical music,” NPR said in a press release.

The first episode featuring Alfaro — Episode No. 446, the Earth Day Special — aired Monday. Additional episodes will air this coming Monday and on May 6, showcasing talented artists across the country.

During the episode, Alfaro introduced listeners to flautist Gary Schocker’s “Memory of Trees,” a piece written for the solo pedal harp. 

“It follows a story of the beginning of the earth and then the middle is when climate kind of changes and things start going wrong,” said Alfaro. “And it ends in disaster, basically. It’s a warning about the natural earth and what’s yet to come for us.”

Composed in 2020, “Memory of Trees” is a sweeping melodic piece written originally for Yolanda Kondonassis’ album “Five Minutes for Earth,” with all proceeds benefitting earth conservation organizations.

“I think it’s definitely a piece about grief of some kind,” said Alfaro. “The idea that the memory just fades away at the end.

“Part of my process when learning it, I had to decide whether it would be a still, steady death to the trees, per se, or a more violent one. I decided to go somewhere in the middle with definitely more of a darker tone to it, but I wanted it to just fade away at the end.”

Alfaro began playing the instrument at age 4 after she heard a group of harpists playing at a Dickens fair.

“One of the harpists lived in our area,” said Alfaro. “She was a Celtic harpist named Margie Butler, and I studied with her from age 4 to 8, at which point I decided I wanted to be a classical harpist. Then I began taking lessons in other cities with classical harp.”

At age 8 Alfaro began classical harp with Dominique Piana, then joined the Modesto Symphony Youth Orchestra in 2020. Last year, she began playing with the Oakland Symphony Youth Orchestra, Modesto Junior College Community Orchestra, and the CSU Stanislaus Orchestra. She also joined the San Francisco Conservatory of Music harp ensemble under Jennifer Ellis. Last April, she began studying under Linda Wood-Rollo. 

“Over the past 13 years of my harp career, I have performed in at least 50 recitals with Margie Butler, Dominique Piana, Jennifer Ellis, and Linda Wood-Rollo,” said Alfaro. “When I was 9 years old, in 2016, I participated in a masterclass with Susann McDonald and participated in that year’s Yvonne La Mothe Schwager Competition for Young Harpists, administered by the Bay Area Chapter of the American Harp Society. In that same competition, I went on to win the Silver Award Level II (2021) and Silver Award Level III (2023).”

Last summer, Alfaro toured Europe with the Oakland Youth Symphony Orchestra, and attended the North Coast Harp Institute with Kondonassis, and the MPulse Harp Institute with Joan Holland.

Alfaro will be performing with the OYSO on May 12.

Best known for its flagship broadcast airing weekly on nearly 200 radio stations nationwide, “From the Top" also invests time and resources to fill gaps in classical music training for the artists they feature on the air. Through their Learning and Media Lab, the program gives young musicians practical experiences in media and technology, community engagement, and storytelling and communication.

Alfaro said she learned a lot by participating in the program.

“Before I worked with the ‘From the Top’ team, I had very little idea what was involved with the recording/collaboration process,” said Alfaro. “After this experience I was surprised by the process of recording and was left with a memorable sense of community.

“This experience has helped me to understand the vastness of the music world, but also the sense of community that can be found between musicians, regardless of background.”

You can listen to Alfaro by visiting