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Middle Schoolers Get Rock Orchestra Lesson

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Kealey Bultena
/
SDPB

Sioux Falls middle schoolers are playing music with a world-renowned rock orchestra violinist. Mark Wood is in town to perform Saturday night. More than 2,700 students are set to accompany him.

Middle schoolers on string instruments perform one of the most iconic contemporary holiday tunes. Mark Wood directs from the front of the room. He instructs students to crouch down, then pop back up with their bows held straight in the air.

Wood is a founding member of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. He plays the seven-string electric violin he invented.

"Remember, we’re dealing not with an instrument that has only been around for a couple of decades. It’s been around for 400 years without changing at all, and there’s beauty in that," Wood says. "There’s beauty in tradition. There’s beauty in preserving, but there’s also beauty in innovation."

Wood uses the instrument as a metaphor for string music. He says traditional classical performance doesn’t need to change, but musicians do need to augment it. Wood does that by incorporating amps and iPads.

"I think that the kid of now, the kid of the next 20 years, is going to be so different and sophisticated and demanding of a deeper experience with the music, with technology, and experience with other people," Wood says.

Wood says students who incorporate movement with their musical performance activate their brains, their bodies, and their hearts. He’s teaching middle schoolers that they can create different kinds of music.

"Usually when you see an orchestra you have the violists here, and if a guy in the back of the violist section, which was me at Julliard by the way, with red sneakers, leather pants, and their hair on fire, I’m going to stick out – and not in a good way in a traditional orchestra," Wood says. "But I was like, ‘Well, where can I fit? I know. Let’s make something new.’ So we have all the kids are standing up (except the cellos), and they’re activating movement and body fluidity with their playing, and we’re working with a choir and a band with the same mentality of activating their inner voice."

Wood says students discover their individual energy and passion using classical instruments in contemporary ways.

Orchestra, band, and choir students from around Sioux Falls perform with Mark Wood on Saturday, December 17 at 7 p.m. at the Denny Sanford Premier Center.

Kealey Bultena grew up in South Dakota, where her grandparents took advantage of the state’s agriculture at nap time, tricking her into car rides to “go see cows.” Rarely did she stay awake long enough to see the livestock, but now she writes stories about the animals – and the legislature and education and much more. Kealey worked in television for four years while attending the University of South Dakota. She started interning with South Dakota Public Broadcasting in September 2010 and accepted a position with television in 2011. Now Kealey is the radio news producer stationed in Sioux Falls. As a multi-media journalist, Kealey prides herself on the diversity of the stories she tells and the impact her work has on people across the state. Kealey is always searching for new ideas. Let her know of a great story! Find her on Facebook and twitter (@KealeySDPB).