Electrify Your Strings event beneficial for Johnson City orchestra students

From left, Science Hill musicians Mack Sartino (cellist), Erin McMillion (violist), Olivia Simmons (violinist), Kaylee Rogers (violinist), and Michael Hu (cellist) were among the students who participated in last year’s performance. Photo by Danielle Morin

By A.J. Kaufman

The Johnson City Schools Orchestra Guild (JCSOG) is again planning to host a very special event.

The “Electrify Your Strings” program occurs March 25, beginning at 7 p.m. inside Freedom Hall Civic Center. The grand performance combines orchestra programs from Indian Trail Middle School, Liberty Bell Middle School and Science Hill High.

Last year, the group brought Mark Wood, an original member of the famous Trans-Siberian Orchestra to the Tri-Cities area and they plan to do the same in 2023. Wood resides in Phoenix, but years ago, longtime orchestra director Susan Lambert met him at an American String Teacher Association Conference.

She was impressed with Wood’s commitment and willingness to share his musical talents with local orchestra students, and eventually she invited him east.

“Electrify Your Strings energizes students, speaks to students musically, and shows students that their musical talents have no boundaries,” Amanda Prunkard, president of the JCSOG, explained to the News & Neighbor. “(The) program fires up students, teachers, and local communities by injecting a high voltage dose of rock into a school’s music education program.”

The intensive rock and roll workshop occurred last year and was successful, Prunkard added, noting it boosted students’ self-esteem and motivation, while increasing school-wide, family and community engagement, and helped raise money for the local orchestra program.

After last year’s concert, students, the families and community members that attended were “beyond enthusiastic and impressed with the show.”
“Many guests mentioned that they couldn’t believe they were watching middle school and high school students,” Prunkard said.

When students told Lambert they wanted Wood back this year to fill Freedom Hall, she and the guild immediately began making arrangements to create the experience again.

More than 40 sponsors aided the 2022 concert, enabling enough money to be raised to pay for the expenses of the EYS workshop program and Wood’s presence this year.

This year’s show will again feature a huge stage, with professional lighting and sound setup. Some of last year’s favorite songs — enjoyed by 2,350 attendees — will be played, alongside selected ones that haven’t been played yet.

“I have heard them rehearsing and we are in for another amazing performance that will be equal to, maybe better, than last year,” Prunkard explained. “We are all looking forward to the high energy that we all feel from the students during rehearsals that explodes the night of the concert. The level of energy, spirit and pure joy that exudes from the students before, during and after the concert leaves us all speechless. It makes all the logistics planning and manual labor that the guild, directors, students, and parent volunteers put in well worth it.”
Tickets are for sale online now, with VIP tables on the arena floor offered as a new option. These include four seats, a VIP parking spot, back door entry, light snacks, bottled water, and a meet-and-greet with Wood before the concert.

Prunkard says the JCSOG is seeking more sponsors for the March 25 event, in order for the guild to use the funds to hire instrument specialists and provide more opportunities for their students to have special experiences.


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