Feb. 15 was a day for romance and good music at Maryville First Baptist Church when the students of the Maryville High School Orchestra entertained more than 700 people during two Valentine concerts.
“We did two performances, and they were probably 300 to 350 at each one,” Maryville High School Orchestra director Bill Robinson said.
Robinson said the soloist did a very good job despite some initial nervousness. “Usually in the second performance they are a little more relaxed than the first one,” he said. “By then they get over the jitters and realize this is fun. They all did a real good.”
The director said the soloists for the Valentine’s concert included Lindsey Newman, Chris Jones, Ben Brewer, Cole Russel and Anna Ellis, Jenna Nease and Molly Hunt and Lucas Kelley.
“We had auditions, and they picked songs they wanted to sing,” Robinson said. “We had a rhythm section on stage which included the keyboard, bass, electric bass, drums, guitars. We try to make it sound as pop as possible, as much like the original arrangements as we could.”
Robinson said there was a wide range of songs performed, including songs made famous by Whitney Houston and Cole Porter, plus some Irish tunes.
The director said the students also participated in a movement called “Playing for Change” that they first learned of through the Bill Moyers’ Journal television show on PBS. In the video there were musicians all over the world simultaneously playing the song “Stand by Me” while Moyers’ interviewed the filmmaker. The students played along with the musicians on screen. The movement is geared toward building music schools in Africa and in underprivileged areas. “We tied that in with what we are doing to give students the opportunity to learn music and share music. That was part of the concert, too. The kids really liked it,” he said.
Robinson said the experience left a good impression on the students. “They realized music has the power to encourage people and give them hope and direction,” he said. “For people who don’t have other things in life, this could be an outlet, and they could have a connection to outside world.”
Robinson said there were about 120 Maryville High School students who performed as part of the orchestra.