Bach to rock

SEE1 delivers unique concert

Musicians and genres of all kinds blend and culminate to produce SEE1, the Sycamore Electric Ensemble. SEE1 will perform at SHS on Fri., Feb. 24 at 7:00 p.m.

The group, founded and led by orchestra conductor Mr. David Smarelli, gives students the unconventional opportunity to become rock stars. The group uses traditional rock instruments like the electric bass, guitar, keyboard, and drums, but it also features electric violins, violas, and cellos.

“Think Trans-Siberian Orchestra. That’s the quickest way. The light show, the volume, [and] the intensity of the music is comparable to TSO, I think. But also, we do a lot of arrangements of very popular songs, with Michael Jackson’s or Steven Tyler’s vocals covered by the violins,” said Peter McCutcheon, 12.

This year the group consists of junior Sofia Ramos and sophomore Morgan Schneider on the electric violin, senior Luis Del Moral Lopez on the electric viola, senior Max Demarks on the electric cello, McCutcheon on the electric bass, senior Max Shirley on the guitar, junior Adrian Oliver on the drums, and freshman Amil Barr on the keyboard.

“It’s helped me to be better at improvisation definitely, and it’s helped me to be better at sight reading. I’m able to get used to the rhythm of a piece quicker now,” Schneider said.

SEE1’s concert will also feature special guest Joe Deninzon, professional electric violinist and singer of the band Stratospheerius, and they will play a number of songs arranged or composed by Deninzon.

2017 will be Deninzon’s third year of playing with and advising the group. (In the past, SEE1 has invited violinists Mark Wood and Christian Howe.) While Deninzon is in town for the performance, he will also give the orchestra a session on improvisation.

“The great thing about improv is, no matter what order you play the notes, they’ll sound fine. I’m still working on stage presence, but I tell myself to really not care what I look like up there, and to just have fun,” Schneider said.

Improvising is an important element to the genres of music, like rock and jazz, that the group plays. The group meets every Wednesday to practice not only the notes on the page but also learning to improvise and create a visually engaging performance.

“Stage presence is key, and just doesn’t happen on its own…you just have to go out and do it… It was once said that being a good performer doesn’t mean you don’t get scared anymore of performing, but instead, just becoming used to the terror. I certainly have reached that point. Just walk in and get it rollin’,” Oliver said.

The program for the February concert consists of well-known songs like “Smooth Criminal” by Jackson and “Born to be Wild” by Steppenwolf. SEE1 is playing “Born to be Wild” along with the fifth graders that they played with at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier in the school year.

“People should go to see the SEE1 concert in order to first off, support the students that have spent the past few months preparing their act for the big show. Any profits raised go back into Sycamore Band and Orchestra Boosters (SBOB) to support not only SEE1, but the entire band and orchestra program.

“Those funds are what drive our music department here, and of course, the best reason anybody comes to a concert: to enjoy some great music and great musicians! Hope to see you there!” Oliver said.

Tickets for the concert will be available for preorder and at the door for $10.

“It’s incredible to be a part of. No where else would classically-trained high schoolers would be encouraged by their teacher (who puts a ton of time, effort, money into us) to pick up electric instruments.

“It’s a complete 180 from what second bell orchestra is like. But that’s the greatness of it. High schoolers owning the stage like pro rock and rollers,” McCutcheon said.