In his travels around the country, rock violinist Mark Wood tells students to not be afraid to be different.
To be successful, he says, you can’t be afraid of change.
Wood, who is in Aberdeen this week to work with string students, is a highly successful musician and educator. But he is proudest of being an innovator.
Change can involve altering perceptions, he said. At Aberdeen Central’s Thomas F. Kelly Theatre on Thursday morning, he told students that Jimi Hendrix changed the way people looked at the guitar. He urged the students to change the way people perceive the violin, viola, cello and bass.
Wood, who lives on New York’s Long Island, has done his share of inventing. He is the creator of the Viper, a seven-string fretted electric violin. The Viper, he said, contains an entire orchestra — a violin, viola, cello and bass.
The last innovation in strings was 400 years ago, when Stradivarius designed and built the modern violin, he said.
“I believe if he was alive today, he would love what I’m doing,” Wood said.
Other people have plugged in violins before, he said. “I have taken it to an extreme level.”
Wood began working with Aberdeen students on Thursday. Beginning today, he will be joined by Bridgid Bibbens, his assistant violinist. His visit will culminate with a day-long event on Saturday at the Aberdeen Civic Arena. From 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., he will work with more than 400 students from Aberdeen, Watertown, Huron and Moorhead, Minn. Including Wood, they will perform together at 7 p.m. in a concert open to the public.
Wood has had plenty of success. He is in his 14th year as a member of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. That group, he told students on Thursday, sold out Madison Square Garden two years in a row. He’s performed with Billy Joel and Paul McCartney.
Wood appeared in a national Pepsi commercial that featured the music of Kanye West. That commercial was shown at the start of Wood’s sessions with students on Thursday. Recently, he appeared on “The Today Show” with his wife, vocalist Laura Kaye, and their son, a 15-year-old drummer.
Wood likes working with young people. He wants them to realize that if they have an idea or dream, they can pursue it.
From September to June, he brings his “Electrify Your Strings” program to two or three cities every week. Last year, he met with 40,000 young people. This year, he expects to double that total.
Wood is the owner and operator of Wood Violins, one of the largest electric violin manufacturing companies in the world. Five craftsmen work at the company in New York.
His other musical inventions include the Cobra cello. That instrument allows cellists to stand up and run around while playing, he noted.
Wood got up at 5 a.m. Thursday to practice for two hours. “If I’m in an airport, you’re going to see me in the corner practicing, and I’m in my 35th year of playing,” he said.
Wood graduated in 1978 from Schreiber High School in Port Washington, N.Y. He later attended The Juilliard School in New York.
Central orchestra director James Weaver brought Wood to Aberdeen. He first encountered Wood seven years ago in Moorhead, Minn., when Weaver was a student at Concordia College.
What to expect
People who attend Saturday night’s concert will witness area youth “doing something really positive” as well as see “one of the world’s best rock violinists,” Weaver said.
Saturday night’s concert will be an “historical event,” Wood said. People will be able to hear more than 400 string players play the music of the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra “in an amplified rock ’n’ roll setting.”
Advance tickets, priced at $10, are available at Ken’s SuperFair Foods and Engel Music. At the door, tickets will be $12.