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Darien High Orchestra Ready to Rock

Darien High School orchestra students get a unique opportunity Saturday to put aside their more classical sides and rock out in a performance with award-winning electric violinist Mark Wood . Matthew Gentile, a senior at Darien High, will perform a solo in the concert.

"I think it's very cool. I saw Mark Wood play with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra ," Gentile said. He said he was also excited to get to play on one of the electric violins that Wood makes. "It's a special type called a Viper. It has up to seven strings, which gives you more of a range and really lets you take command of the music."

In addition to Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Wood has played with Billy Joel, Lenny Kravitz and Celine Dion. Between tours, he, along with his wife Laura Kaye and their son Elijah, visits schools around the country as part of a program called Electrify Your Strings , in which they share an energetic, rock-and-roll vibe with school orchestras.

"No longer are we just sitting down, looking half asleep, playing the same old music," Wood said. "We're standing up, we're improvising, we're celebrating the music. It's very visual and energetic."

Kaye is a vocalist who has worked with James Brown and Aretha Franklin. She is working with the Darien High Tudor Singers & Concert Choir to bring the same energy to the vocal component of the show. "We're teaching them to sing in a different way than they have before. We're teaching them to be rock and rollers," she said. "It's always amazing to work on the transformation with them."

During rehearsal, Wood encouraged students to stand up and be lively in the performance. "The art of music is that it's alive. It allows you to connect to another person," he told them. "You're not playing to a music stand, those days are over."

The show is Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the Darien High School auditorium. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door.

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