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Farewell, Mark Wood

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On Tuesday, April 4th, students had the opportunity to “rock out” with renowned violin punk rock legend Mark Wood at the annual Electrify Your Strings rehearsal and concert hosted at Ward Melville for the past 3 years. Orchestra students from Murphy, Gelinas and Ward Melville gathered at the high school during the school day to rehearse for a collective performance on Tuesday evening.

Electrify Your Strings (EYS) is a music education program created by Mark Wood, an accomplished electric violinist and recording artist. EYS visits schools throughout the United States to work with music directors and students for two to three days, culminating the program with a live rock performance by students at each school. The goal of EYS is to provide a fresh, fun, and interactive learning experience for all students involved in music. Profits from tickets sold at the concert will directly benefit the school’s music department.

Mark Wood’s annual visits to Ward Melville have left a tremendous impact on both music students and educators throughout the district. Ward Melville orchestra teacher Mr. Hein explains, “The goal [of EYS] was to get the entire orchestra involved in playing a new variety of music… and giving [students] a really cool performance opportunity of playing in a rock show.” Playing with Wood also provided students an irreplaceable experience of working with a professional musician.

During the school day, the junior high orchestras, 10th grade orchestra, 11th/12th grade orchestra, and the Chamber Orchestra were each assigned a certain class period to rehearse their two chosen rock-style pieces with the contemporary composer. Students from all four ensembles came together in the auditorium during periods 6 and 7 to run-through the finale piece. Throughout these interactive practice sessions, Mark exposed the students to a variety of rock performance techniques to keep the audience engaged, from moving back and forth with the beat of the music to ending with a signature “bow straight in the air” pose. The concert program consisted of pieces ranging from “Back in Black” to “Fire n’ Ice,” during which Wood accompanied the students with various solos on his electric violin. The finale piece, “Kashmir,” was a piece composed by Mark Wood himself, characterized by an Indian-sounding melody in D major.

Proud parents, enthusiastic siblings, and eager friends throughout the district packed the Ward Melville auditorium on Tuesday night to witness the rare spectacle of young students playing with a professional musician. Tickets were five dollars each, a price definitely worth paying. While the orchestras played along with Wood, an incredible light show took place, leaving the audience in awe. All in all, the concert was a great success in promoting the power and excitement of music, while raising funds for the Three Village music program. Despite the concert’s success, however, many students and teachers wished that they had more time to prepare with Mark Wood himself. Unlike years past, high school orchestra students only got one day to practice instead of the usual two days with Wood. Students had spent the past month practicing for the concert, and were disappointed when they realized they only had one day to practice with the star himself.

Further attention to the Three Village music program was brought through the raffle hosted that evening. Generous prizes including an electric guitar autographed by Mark Wood, a large discount for Bob Murphy’s Violin Shop, and a scholarship to the Brooklyn Academy of Music summer program were raffled off to members of the audience.

The annual Electrify Your Strings rehearsal and concert provides Three Village orchestra students with the opportunity to escape from the classical realm of music that is naturally attributed to string instruments and explore more alternative styles such as rock. The overall performing experience with Mark Wood has proved controversial however, with some students viewing it as an honor while others see it as a burden. Sophomore Darby Kent exclaims, “The concert and rehearsal with Mark Wood is one of a kind. It’s so different from the regular everyday orchestra practice! He turns orchestra from classical and proper to rock and loose. It’s so fun having this one time during the year to let loose. Overall the rehearsal and concert with Mark is a memory I’ll hold on to.” On the other hand, an orchestra student who has chosen to remain anonymous reveals an opinion quite on the contrary, stating, “I think that the orchestra rehearsed on its own way too long only to be tuned out by Mark’s outrageously loud violin and the soundtrack playing. The concert was ok because you can tell everyone worked hard but Mark made the show all about himself!” 

Whether an honor or a burden, this year was the last opportunity for orchestra ensembles from the junior high schools and Ward Melville to perform with Wood. Next year, elementary school orchestra students will have the opportunity to experience the Electrify Your Strings program. This came as a surprise to many Ward Melville and junior high students, who were either relieved or dismayed to hear this news. Sophomore Varsha Talanki explained, “To be honest, I was very sad because I had no idea. I was looking forward to seeing him for two more years. Although I wasn’t the biggest fan of his music, the experience was amazing.”

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Farewell, Mark Wood