About 70 Conway High School students will participate in a Youth Rock Orchestra featuring the Mark Wood Experience at Robinson Auditorium in Little Rock on April 15.
Wood is an original violinist and string master, playing with the Trans Siberian Orchestra since its inception 13 years ago.
His band is comprised of Trans Siberian Orchestra members of past and present.

Heather Isbell, cellist in the Mark Wood Experience is the Youth Rock Orchestra’s volunteer director.

The Rock Orchestra is a student driven group, according to their Web site, comprised of volunteer leaders and performers.
“It’s an exciting concert. It is not a typical orchestra concert, it’s more of a rock concert. Kids dress like rock stars. There’s lights, smoke, lasers. It basically looks like the Trans Siberian Orchestra without the fire,” Isbell said. “We do it up right. We bring all new sound and lights into Robinson.”
Isbell said the energy produced by the students on the stage could not be replicated by adults.
“They dance, move around. They are rock stars. They become totally uninhibited when they play on the stage in this concert. It’s awesome to see the kids experience greatness. To show them how it feels to have a crowd on their feet screaming for them,” Isbell said. “Weeks after the show, people will still be telling them how amazing it was.”
Isbell said participation in the event is a life-influencing experience.
“It transcends into everything they do. It goes into other aspects of their lives. The bar is raised higher,” Isbell said.

The Youth Rock Orchestra is in its third year of operation, and will hold its second concert with Wood on April 15.
The orchestra was started by Isbell as an after school program at Mills High School in Little Rock. Assisting her efforts are Geoff Robson, associate conductor of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and Joe Joyner, violinist.
“I did this because I knew the only way a program like this would start was if I did it. There aren’t funds for it.

Isbell applied for grants for necessary electrical equipment and has partnered with sponsors like The Point 94.1, Pianocraft and Bryant Music Center to promote and fund the concert.

Mills High School and Conway High School students make up much of the orchestra, though other schools in Central Arkansas are represented by volunteer students.

High involvement of students from the Conway School District is due to the “outstanding orchestra program”, said Isbell, which is directed by Karla Fournier.

Students participating from Conway range in age 14-18, in grades 9 through 12.

Isbell said she’d like to stress the concept of the Youth Rock Orchestra as one that enhances existing orchestra programs, rather than replaces them.

“This would not exist without our string programs and music programs in schools. They work together. We wouldn’t have players without these programs in place,” Isbell said.
Orchestra directors have reported enhancement in the level of playing from participants of the Youth Rock Orchestra, according to Isbell.
“It’s also a great concept between the parents and students. Parents who don’t connect with classical music, find the rock music their kids play giving them a common bond. The football dad who has the violinist son hears him playing Led Zeppelin and a new connection is made,” Isbell said. 

Tickets for the Youth Rock Orchestra may be purchased at the Celebrity Attractions Box Office in Little rock or by going to www.kkpt.com.

(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by e-mail at courtney.spradlin@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)