As a middle-school clarinetist, I remember setting a timer for my practice sessions. Tooting out squeaky versions of “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean,” it seemed to take 90 minutes for those 30 minutes of rehearsal to be complete.
Sound familiar? Imagine a world in which young musicians are excited about practicing and performance. You’ve entered the world in which the students from six local schools will reside on Nov. 11 and 12. This world is called “Electrify Your Strings,” and its leader is Mark Wood, a former member of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
We’ve all heard the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s music. Whether you know it or not is another matter. If you have seen the television commercials with orchestral rock ‘n’ roll versions of Christmas tunes used as soundtracks for holiday light shows, then you’ve heard the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Is it possible to have that kind of musical energy and inspiration flowing from the fingertips of our local orchestra students? It is, thanks to Mark Wood.
“I took my orchestra students to the Mark Wood Experience last year at Wheat Ridge High School. It was one of the most inspirational experiences of my career,” says Michelle Knight, director of instrumental music at Evergreen High School. “One of my violinists was set on the idea of pursuing a college degree in fashion design. She had such a great experience with Mark Wood that she decided to pursue a career in music instead.”
This year, Knight and the students and parents of EHS decided to host Mark Wood in the mountains. On Nov. 11, Wood will be on site for a workshop at Evergreen High. Wood will rehearse for three hours with students from Evergreen Middle School, West Jefferson Middle School and Rocky Mountain Academy. He will hold a separate rehearsal with orchestra students from Evergreen High, Conifer High and Wheat Ridge High.
In these intense practice sessions, the orchestras rehearse music previously selected by Wood and his team of professionals. Pieces may include The Beatles “Eleanor Rigby,” a Jimi Hendrix mash-up or Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.” The goal is to provide a unique musical experience while teaching the students the value of pursuing their dreams — musical or otherwise.
“Wood spends some time talking about his journey,” says Knight. “He practiced hours a day and was accepted to Juilliard. He ultimately broke away from the norms of playing the violin, crafting his electric violins and exploring rock ‘n’ roll with the instrument. He really inspires kids to work hard and devote themselves to whatever they are passionate about.”
The experience will culminate in a full-orchestra rock concert performed by more than 100 students. The concert will take place on Thursday, Nov. 12, at 7:30 p.m. at Evergreen High School. Tickets are $10 for all attendees and are available at www.brownpapertickets.com. Interested ticket buyers can search for Evergreen High School on this site and pick up their tickets at will call. For more information, contact Michelle Knight at 303-982-5101.
Sara Miller, a freelance writer and a resident of Evergreen, lives with her husband, two children and a dog.