This Friday, East Lansing’s High School and Middle School orchestras are performing with guest Mark Wood – an original member of the group Trans-Siberian Orchestra – as part of the Electrify Your Strings Spotlight Tour, a non-classical orchestra concert that is sure to showcase students’ talent, hard work, and ability to transform strings into a true rock-and-roll event.
Guest Mark Wood is a classically trained musician whose love of rock and roll informed his desire to share the experience of playing alternative styles of music with school-aged kids across the world.
Wood has an extensive background in orchestra and a passion for teaching students alternative ways to experience music.
Wood travels around the United States, and sometimes internationally, to perform with high school and middle school orchestras, and this week, a little over 200 East Lansing students will showcase months of work as they take to the stage in East Lansing High School’s (ELHS) theater.
In an interview with ELi, Wood explained his background in music – growing up around art, attending Julliard, then eventually scoring a record deal and forming the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
As an “artist mentor,” Wood, and about a dozen other artists like him partner with teachers around the world to “get kids and parents to see the value that musical programs have on emotional intelligence,” according to Wood.
Wood told ELi that his favorite part of working with students is the power in starting from scratch – these kids “blossom right in front of your face; kids who are distant and disconnected have so much showmanship, they have so much fun.”
Wood is an Emmy-winning composer and founder and owner of Wood Violins and Electrify Your Symphony. While his focus in recent years has been in education, he still jumps in on tours with his former Trans-Siberian Orchestra fellows from time to time.
ELPS students have been preparing for the performance most of the semester after it has been rescheduled twice due to Covid.
ELHS Orchestra Teacher David Rosin and MacDonald Middle School Orchestra and Band Teacher Mikaela Vanator wanted to expose their students to music outside of the classical style.
Vanator originally reached out to Wood because of her positive experience with his tour as a high schooler in East Kentwood, Michigan. After rescheduling the concert twice due to Covid-19, this spring 2022 date has finally approached.
To begin the partnership with Wood’s traveling string concerts, Wood provided an array of music he wrote, which are classic rock tunes that have been transformed for orchestra.
Earlier in the semester, different groups of students, grades 6 through 12, were assigned songs to practice and perform for the concert. The students have also spent some time practicing choreographed movements for the performance.
ELi heard from ELHS student John Danziger who noted that rehearsals have been great, although, “the music is, to say the least, not easy.”
Danziger said, “This is a one-of-a-kind experience for us.”
The setup on stage is another non-traditional aspect to the concert as they will be standing and moving with the passion of the rock music.
The theater will display lights and other fun aspects in ways that will mimic a rock concert, and Wood will perform rock solos alongside his performance with the students.
In an email to ELi, Sylvia Jencks said this was her first time performing a non-classical concert and that, “Practice has been great!…This experience has taught me that I can play more difficult music and keep up with a faster tempo, which I’ve struggled with in the past.”
Wood will arrive in East Lansing the Thursday before the concert to give clinics for the two days prior to the performance.
Along with his high level of expertise, Wood will bring the seven string electric viper violin, an instrument invented by Wood himself. During the concert, a line of students near the front of the stage will play viper violins.
Admission to the concert this Friday is free.
Head to East Lansing High School, 509 Burcham Dr, East Lansing, MI 48823, at 7 p.m. this Friday, April 29, to experience the Electrify Your Strings concert.
As a part of the gig, Wood will bring a Stingray violin to be raffled off at the end of the night.
Wood’s visit has been funded by East Lansing Band and Orchestra Parent Association.