Student musicians gearing up for Trans-Siberian Orchestra show

By Morgan Banville | Dec 18, 2017
Photo by: Morgan Banville

The Dartmouth High School Orchestra has performed in some of the most exquisite performance halls in the country, but now the group is gearing up for its annual holiday show at the Zeiterion Theatre on December 23 with a special guest.

For the orchestra’s annual Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert, which is already sold out, Mark Wood, a former member of the Christmas-themed rock band, will appear as a special co-star.

Wood runs his Electrify Your Strings program, which is an intensive music education experience that assists in raising money for music education. As part of the program, Wood is also raffling off a Mark Wood Stingray violin as a fundraiser for the Dartmouth Orchestra Program.

Orchestra Co-Directors, Heather Church and Charlene Monte are excited to work with Wood.

“Strings [instruments] are cool and he’s an advocate for that. It isn’t just a classical world anymore,” said Church.

Church, who played with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra for three years, met Mark 12 years ago at an American String Teachers Association conference.

“I was drawn to his cool display of hand-made electric string instruments,” Church said. “At that time, I was playing in a few local rock bands and was in the market for a new electric violin. I tried one of his five string vipers and put in an order the following day.”

Besides the display, Church was drawn to Wood’s vibrant personality.

“I was so impressed with his fierce devotion to promoting string education all over the United States,” Church said. “I contacted Mark a month and a half ago to see if he would work with the students. The only thing that could top what we were doing would be if Mark would come and play with us.”

Wood is allowing the students to borrow nine electric violins to play during the concert.

“It’s an intimidating experience and it will feature different students through each of the seven or so songs we play with Mark,” Church said.

Senior Jaidyn Cook believes this will be the most fun concert.

“It’s the TSO and everyone loves the TSO,” Cook said. “There’s a little more pressure about Mark coming to the Zeiterion, but it’s really awesome. I’m kind of scared [to play the electric violin] especially because of how experienced and talented Mark is, but I knew this was an opportunity that I couldn’t miss.”

Senior Jack D’Atri agreed, stating how he is a huge fan of Mark Wood.

“I am very grateful to have someone like her [Church] teaching us,” said D’Atri. “They’ve [Church/Monte] been teaching us since fourth or fifth grade, so it makes you feel like you’re with a family. I’ve learned so much and a whole new way of playing and a whole new level of pioneering of electric violin. My heart will melt when I’m going to play there with him.”

Many of the students plan on having the special guest sign their instruments and feel lucky to have Monte and Church as their instructors.

Last year, the Dartmouth High School Orchestra played a concert devoted to the music from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. The orchestra has a strong foundation in classical training, however, they appreciate all genres of music and co-directors Monte and Church wish to expose their students to as many different styles of music as possible.

“It was such a success that we decided to pursue the concert at the Zeiterion Theater this year,” Church said. “This historic theater can not only accommodate more guests, but it allows our students all the perks that accompany a performance at a professional theater. We added more music, more guest musicians and hired a sound and lighting crew to enhance the show. The show sold out in one month (all 1200 seats).”

The orchestra intends to stay true to the TSO music, but will play a few of Wood’s arrangements including Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train.”

“My expectation is that he will inspire the students,” Monte said. “He is a very inspiring teacher worldwide and this is a big treat. The orchestra has been continuously growing and getting better and better, and we have talked about Mark coming multiple times but we never really got it together until this year.”

Senior Morgan Oliveira said that the music has been more difficult, but definitely worthwhile. “Mrs. Church wants the best for us and always goes the extra mile,” said Oliveira.

Director of Music William Kingsland said that the students have put considerable class time and rehearsal time into this performance.

“You don’t get a good product without time,” said Kingsland.

Approximately 80 students from the high school, as well as alumni and several seventh and eighth grade students from Dartmouth Middle School will perform at the event. Dartmouth High School graduates Sydney Carpentier, Hanna Rabstejnek, and Biana Laslo designed the TSO t-shirt.

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