The Westbury High School auditorium was filled with the sound of Ozzy Osbourne, Led Zeppelin and Prince last week, for an electrifying concert that taught students just how far music could take them.
The concert was the capstone event of Electrify Your Strings, a national music education program founded by electric violinist Mark Wood where students learn from world-class musicians and put on a rock concert at their school. The Westbury School District has been part of the Electrify Your Strings program for several years and while booking conflicts keep the program’s founder from being able to attend this year, students enjoyed studying under the tutelage of noted musician Haydn Vitera, a multi-instrumentalist who has performed with Stevie Wonder, George Strait and as a member of the Grammy-winning group, Asleep at the Wheel.
Vitera said the goal of the program wasn’t just to prep students for a concert, but to develop their confidence and performance skills, exposing them to what it was like to be part of a real rock concert.
“It’s not a typical orchestra performance at all,” said Vitera. “It’s a high energy show, but we also stress that what they’re learning from their classic training is essential.”
Students went through the process of a sound check, and stood up during the show, donning jeans and T-shirts during the show instead of the classic white shirt-black pants concert combination. They took the stage of the Westbury High School auditorium on Friday, Nov. 4 to perform seven heavy metal and rock songs, from artists including Led Zeppelin, Ozzy Osbourne and Imagine Dragons, closing with a three-song tribute to Prince.
Senior Andrea Argueta said one of her favorite parts of Electrify Your Strings was being able to play songs on her viola that were more well known.
“Sometimes as a viola, I don’t get all the solos but they bring out my section and it’s a chance for me to rock out,” said Argueta. “Instead of doing our regular classical pieces, it’s music we listen to that everyone knows.”
Students have been practicing the pieces since the beginning of the school year and on Thursday did workshopping and rehearsals, followed by a dress rehearsal on Friday.
Laura Kaye, vice president and co-owner of Electrify Your Strings and wife of Mark Wood, said the talent in Westbury students is what really stands out.
“There’s a talent pool here that is just amazing,” Kaye said. “We have found some incredibly talented students. The student population has a real heart and spirit and they’re wonderful to work with.”
Vitera said being part of Electrify Your Strings not only makes students better musicians, but builds confidence in other areas as well.
“All students won’t continue on to be musicians, but if you’re shy like I was as a kid, and you come up and everyone’s cheering for them, afterward they’re glowing,” Vitera said. “It translates to way beyond music. Next time you’re faced with something you think you can’t do, you can look back at an experience like this and say ‘well I did this, so why not try.’”