Pulling strings: Skaneateles students rock out with Mark Wood

"Rock is all about being behind the beat," Mark Wood said to Skaneateles High School students March 31.

The orchestra had just finished playing a cover of "Stairway to Heaven," originally performed by rock band Led Zeppelin, and Wood was at the helm working with the students near the end of the school day.

Wood, an electric violinist with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, had been working with the orchestra throughout the day during clinics he does with schools across the country when not touring with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra or his own band. Though he makes his home on Long Island, Wood also has a Central New York connection through his brother, Greg Wood, a classical musician with the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra.

"It's just been a dream," Wood said of his experience with the Skaneateles students.

With months of practice already behind them, Wood was able to walk onto the auditorium stage with a well-rehearsed group of musicians.

"We've worked on the music for two months. He's really polishing it," said Karen Veverka, high school and middle school orchestra director. "It's a once in a lifetime experience."

Wood said he normally walks into a scenario where the students aren't prepared for the high-intensity performance they put on following the clinic. However, the amount of time Veverka spent working with her students on the set list proved that Skaneateles was ready for the performance of a lifetime.

According to Wood, Veverka's teaching has exposed the students to a wide and broad concept of music. Tunes he usually plays can range from jazz to fiddling to rock, though usually not classical rock.

"I'm offering a different type of experience," he said. "It's not often that they get an electric violinist in here."

The experience Wood brought to the table is certainly one that orchestra students in Skaneateles will remember for the rest of their lives.

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