Merit School of Music

Elio & Luke Represent Merit on NPR’s From the Top

At Merit School of Music, we pride ourselves on providing kids and teens from across Chicagoland with the best music education possible. Deep, inspiring instruction from some of the top music teachers in the region, masterclasses with world-famous musicians, and unforgettable performance opportunities give our students endless opportunities to grow both musically and personally during their time here.

And recently, two pianists from Merit’s Alice S. Pfaelzer Conservatory Class of 2022, Elio Gaviria and Luke Magee, were given the opportunity of a lifetime: performing on NPR’s renowned radio show, From the Top, during a special taping of the show in Merit’s own Gottlieb Hall.

Since 1995, From the Top has been showcasing the best young classical musicians in the country. In addition to Elio and Luke landing a spot on the show as a piano duo, Merit’s Bone Rangers trombone quartet will showcase their talents for From the Top’s national audience in the fall.

Episode 416 starts with a bang. Elio and Luke break into a rousing rendition of “It’s Lovely Here” and “Floods of Spring” by Sergei Rachmaninoff. The host of the show, pianist Peter Dugan, and co-host and principal clarinet of The Phoenix Symphony, Alex Laing, call their performance “inspiring” and praise it for being filled with “so much color and so much texture.”

Recent Merit alums from the Class of 2022, Elio Gaviria and Luke Magee, perform “It’s Lovely Here” by Sergei Rachmaninoff and arranged by Victor Babin on NPR’s From the Top.


Their piano duet demands a glowing “BRAVISSIMO!” What causes our staff and faculty to truly glow with pride is the interview portion which follows. Elio, from Chicago proper, and Luke, from La Grange, poignantly reveal that the thing they appreciate most about their partnership is their differences. Some of their differences might seem insignificant: “He really likes Led Zeppelin. I will never be a Led Zeppelin fan,” Luke jokingly chides. But the sentiment speaks volumes: Merit brings the youth of Chicagoland together through the love of classical and jazz music. Elio and Luke go on to discuss their passion for expanding the classical music community. Luke wants to inspire his peers to be curious about classical music and considers himself an ambassador for the art form. Elio talks about making classical music more inclusive, reflecting on how he instigated an important update in the performance dress code at Merit. “As a transgender pianist, I definitely felt the struggle of having to follow a [performance] dress code that I didn’t exactly feel comfortable in,” he explains. “I took a [Conservatory] class focused on 21st-century issues. I made a presentation about these policies, and I ended up changing the dress code – which so many of my other queer friends at the school have been grateful for. I’m very honored to have been the one to change it because I know younger me would be very proud.”

“We’re incredibly proud of Elio for activating our awareness of the need for this important update to our school’s performance dress code. Doing this took courage, persistence, and great leadership,” comments Kurtis Gildow, Dean & Vice President for Educational Affairs. “At Merit, we not only train excellent musicians. We encourage students to advocate for themselves and lean into what they care about deeply. A big piece of that is cultivating a community where everyone feels a sense of belonging, and where students have the freedom to express themselves by speaking up for that in which they believe.”

To hear these amazing young pianists perform and discuss their passion for classical music, tune in to From the Top, Show 416 today. And make sure to save the date for the premiere of the Bone Rangers’ episode on September 5th!

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