Blaine teen performs on National Public Radio’s ‘From the Top’

Pianist Derek Hartman of Blaine is back in the news, this time at the national level.

Derek Hartman, 15, of Blaine was recently selected to perform on National Public Radio’s “From the Top.”                    Photo courtesy of Kate Jansen
Derek Hartman, 15, of Blaine was recently selected to perform on National Public Radio’s “From the Top.”
Photo courtesy of Kate Jansen

Hartman, 15, a member of a nascent classical trio, recently scored a spot on National Public Radio’s prestigious program “From the Top.”

The show features America’s best young artists hosted by esteemed pianist Christopher O’Riley.

“It was an experience in classical music that took it beyond the concert,” Derek said.

“It was more about fun and building relationships,” he said of the other student performers he met with whom he is now Facebook friends.

Billed as the Hartman-Warren-Doyle Trio from the Twin Cities, the group recently changed its name to the Cartesian Piano Trio.

Playing with Hartman in the trio are cellist Nora Doyle, 16, of Minneapolis and violinist Luther Warren, 17, of New Brighton.

The group was organized by Hartman’s piano teacher Dr. Paul Wirth of St. Joseph and has been together for nearly a year. The trio tries to rehearse and meet with chamber music coach Tom Rosenberg about once a week for 90 minutes.

“It’s been a very big learning experience,” Derek said about being a member of the trio. “It teaches you a lot about communication between performers. You really have to have a sense of pulse and emotion and connection between the players.”

The trio sent in an audition tape to the program in late December 2012 and learned at the end of January that it was selected as one of five acts to perform on NPR’s national broadcast the week of April 29. The show was repeated on MPR May 5.

The group traveled to Athens, Ga., for a taping session, where it played the first movement of Smetana’s “Piano Trio in G Minor, Opus 15.” The program was taped before a live audience March 3 at the University of Georgia campus.

Performing a wide range of classical music, four other acts appeared on the show with the Twin Cities trio: a solo violinist, solo pianist, classical quintet and solo cellist.

Other gigs

The trio last month was selected to perform in MPR’s third annual Minnesota Varsity Showcase Concert for emerging young artists at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul.

This weekend the group travels to the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., to compete in the Fischoff Chamber Music competition, billed as the nation’s largest chamber music contest.

There, it will perform Mendelssohn’s first movement of his “Piano Trio in D Minor,” Smetana’s “Piano Trio in G Minor” and Babajanian’s “Piano Trio in F-Sharp Minor.”

Derek, who has perfect pitch and has won many music competitions, started piano lessons at the age of five.

Prior to studying piano with Wirth, Derek took lessons from Dr. Sarah Miller of MacPhail Center for Music. He continues to study composition and theory with her.

Among his many appearances as a soloist, Derek was granted the honor of performing as guest artist last month with the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra after winning the Rising Stars Concerto competition. He was featured soloist in Beethoven’s “Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor,” the second and third movements. The performance took place at Viterbo College in La Crosse, Wis.

Before going on stage Derek said he experiences a short and mild case of nervousness, but “once I get started, I’m fine,” he said.

For his enjoyment, Derek prefers listening to rock, jazz and contemporary Christian music. He particularly likes Green Day, a rock band.

Derek plays French horn in his school’s band. He also plays in a wind ensemble and jazz band at Spring Lake Park High School, where he is a sophomore. He has performed in the North Metro Honor Jazz ensemble.

Derek also plays keyboard in a rock band, Lymphelium Lester, which performs mostly for school events.

To Derek, music is a God-given gift, a passion, he said.

He practices piano after school usually one to two hours a day, some days until 10:30 p.m. When he’s working toward a competition, he practices three and four hours a day.

As for future plans, at this time he’s not sure whether to pursue playing piano as a career.

“If not a career, it will be a hobby, forever,” Derek said.

And as for his appearance on “From the Top,” he learned to turn classical music-making into a more lighthearted experience, rather than playing it perfectly, he said.

“That was a new thing,” Derek said.

To hear the Cartesian Piano Trio perform, visit

Elyse Kaner is at [email protected]