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Rocking Out with Strings, Awesomely

Fusion Rock Orchestra Debuts Music Video Today


Mitchell Evink couldn’t seem to help playing air cello as he sat on the floor of the band room and watched a video featuring the high school’s rock fusion orchestra.

As air cello goes, Mitchell’s playing was pretty “lit,” as we hope the current teen parlance would deem it. But even more lit was watching him and his Fusion Rock Orchestra-mates play for real on the video, a professionally produced piece that makes its world debut today.

In it, Lowell students perform an original piece, titled “The Wrath of Ignatius.” It is written by Jeremy Crosmer, former assistant principal cellist with the Grand Rapids Symphony, who now plays with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

The video was shot over one long day in April — the day before prom, in fact, pointed out one student — in vacant space inside the Harris building in downtown Grand Rapids. It was produced and directed by Storytelling Pictures in Grand Rapids.

“It feels like our brush with fame,” said violinist Chloe Looman.

The video was made using part of a $83,750 service-learning grant awarded in 2014 to Kent ISD from the State Farm Youth Advisory Board. The Rock Orchestra Arts Advocacy Project is aimed at exposing K-12 students to the benefits of fusion rock and orchestra.

“The idea is to share it with other schools and other music directors to encourage them to offer and participate in rock fusion,” said Lowell director Wendy Tenney, who leads Rock Fusion with her husband, Aaron.

Lowell Fusion Rockers prepare for Take 2 (courtesy photo)

School Music Programs: Really Cool

Fusion rockers clearly got into making the video, despite being under hot lights for hours: Drummer Patrick Kargl tossed his sticks and kept a steady beat as a circle of violinists jumped in unison and tapped their sneakered toes on the hardwood floor.

The overriding message: Being in school music programs is really, really cool.

“In the hands of students, this (orchestra) music becomes fresh and alive,” Tenney said.

Besides being able to give classical music a modern edge, and modern and classic music a classical-yet-amped-up vibe, musicians interviewed in the video afterward pointed to teamwork, friendships and the ability to play music they want to play as reasons for being involved.

“(Rock Fusion) is an avenue for me to play my favorite music on an instrument that I love to play,” said violist Eli Boulton, a 2017 LHS graduate who also played drums.

Any West Michigan school interested in hosting the Lowell Rock Fusion Orchestra is invited to contact Tenney at Lowell High School by calling 987-2900.

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering East Grand Rapids, Forest Hills and Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio or email Morgan.

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