If Ballston Spa music students have ever wondered what it's like to be a rock star, they're sure to find out by the end of the night on Thursday, Feb. 11. That's when 200 students from the elementary, middle and high schools will put on a one-of-a-kind rock orchestra performance as part of the program Electrify Your Strings.
For the past two months, orchestra students from around the district have been learning, practicing and perfecting songs for their next concert; except this time the music isn't Beethoven or Bach, it's Led Zeppelin and Coldplay. Humanities coordinator for the district Peg Brady stumbled across an advertisement for the innovative music program, offered by Emmy-award winning and original Trans-Siberian Orchestra member Mark Wood, and thought students would love it. She was right.
"It excited them so much to play popular music. They're accustomed to playing classical and this is Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, etc. They don't have this opportunity in the school curriculum to participate in a rock orchestra and they're absolutely elated. It's hysteria," said Brady.
Music teachers and students received sound files and downloadable sheet music they've been practicing with in anticipation of Wood's arrival. On Feb. 11, the musician who has worked with Billy Joel, Celine Dion, Lenny Kravitz, Jewel and others, will spend an entire day with the students to prepare them for the evening's concert, which is free and open to the public.
Brady said Wood's reputation for pushing kids out of their comfort zone is what attracted her most to the program because they're not given such liberties on a regular basis. Wood said straying from what's familiar and challenging them to understand music in a totally new way is invaluable and why he does this.
"I encourage them to play American music, which consists of an incredible amount of musical history from big band to jazz to rock and roll to country and hip hop. I introduce all the great American to historically classical-based pedagogy in the string world," said Wood, who has been running this workshop program for about eight years. "I'm introducing them to another option and way of looking at music through their instruments. Music is a communicator and it's a positive reinforcement so they connect deeper; have a deeper relationship with their instrument and music."