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Pulling strings: Skaneateles students rock out with Mark Wood

"He's not teaching us about technique," sophomore viola player Dan Lemp said. "He's teaching us to rock out."

Lemp began playing the viola in third grade, but started getting serious about music between sixth and eighth grade, he said. He picked up private lessons with Judy Hershberger, a Skaneateles resident, and in those few years has seen his skill increase by "leaps and bounds."

Spending time with Wood has lent a hand in honing his skills, but also has given Lemp the opportunity to play the viper -- an electric violin with chest support and more strings to concentrate on -- during the public performance April 1.

The experience of playing on stage and working closely with Wood has left a lasting impression on many of Skaneateles' musicians.

"I really like him because, even though he's a rock star, he treats everyone like he's known them forever," Lemp said.

Fifth-grader Amber Walker, 10, has been motivated by the experience of playing one-on-one with Wood.

"It was really awesome! In the middle of the song 'All Together Now,' my solo, I just started shaking, but then when he's around you just kind of loosen up," she said following Wednesday's performance. "I'm still thinking, 'I can't believe that just happened!'"

Near the end of the evening, Wood played a solo dedicated to the orchestra members, which Walker said is the longest solo she's ever heard. After the concert, Wood had additional word of encouragement for the young violinist.

"Afterwards, he was saying, 'Amber, you have talent, but you got to practice.' The way he said that really motivated me," she said "I hope to play violin for as long as I can, and I will practice."

For in-school clinics, Veverka said Wood books two years in advance and she was finally able to get confirmation of the Skaneateles dates last year.

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