Electric sounds: Electric orchestra performs Dec.12


This year a new branch of music was introduced to the school in September – electric orchestra. Principal Sarah Watkins and head orchestra director Brian Coatney decided to create the new orchestra after Watkins saw a group from Abilene High School perform before the school year started.

“It was really Mr. Coatney’s decision to implement it,” Watkins said. “The electric orchestra in Abilene sounded really great. I thought that if someone in Abilene could do it, we could do it.”

Compared to concert orchestra, which focuses mainly on classical music, electric orchestra plays a completely different type of music ranging from popular culture to country styles – tunes that are heard on the radio.

“The main thing is, it’s just a type of outlet for them to perform and one they are not used to,” Coatney said.

A new set-up is also a big change from the traditional setting of all musicians sitting in a half-circle arrangement.

“There is going to be some choreography and we will have some lighting effects to make everything look cool,” Coatney said.

Students in concert orchestra were given the opportunity to audition for electric orchestra in Sepetember, when the school got the funding for it. In previous years, the regular orchestra would only perform one bluegrass or pop piece at the spring concert, but it was a solely volunteer piece. This year it was decided that if they were going to go all out, the electric orchestra needed to be an audition group. Electric orchestra applicants had about three weeks to prepare an audition packet where they had to play some scales and memorize passages that featured fiddle music and pop tunes. The applicants for electric orchestra also had to improvise on “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

“It always amazes me every year that we know the students as classical musicians performing the traditional orchestra music,” Coatney said. “I’m always really surprised at how fast and how well they are at picking up this type of music.”

Junior Eric Lee auditioned to be in electric orchestra and made it in. According to Lee, electric orchestra has music that is played at a modern concert and implements what happens in real life.

“There is a performer called Lindsey Sterling who I’ve always admired,” Lee said. “She always does choreography within her performances. I just thought joining electric orchestra would be a great opportunity to follow my model. Being in electric orchestra is just a great time. It’s like learning a new format.”

In a year or two, Coatney said he hopes to make electric orchestra into a class like jazz band. Students who are selected to be in electric orchestra will take it along with formal orchestra. In formal orchestra, they will learn classical performing while in electric orchestra they will learn modern performing.

“I think making it into a class will affect the number of people who can do it because we can only have seven periods,” Lee said. “If they were to make electric orchestra into a class, it’s possible that kids who wanted to participate in regular orchestra would not be able to participate in electric orchestra.”

Right now electric orchestra has two concerts planned for this year. A small performance is on Dec. 12 and another full show is planned for April or May. Right now, Coatney said he just wants the performers to have fun with the new style of music.

“We want it to be fun for the audience too,” Coatney said. “It’s almost like a rock concert kind of setting. The audience etiquette is different than people are used to, so they listen, but applause can be a little more boisterous than normal.”

When electric orchestra becomes a class, Coatney hopes to have performances at other venues.

“Hopefully we can get this group to really feature Plano Senior,” Coatney said. “Electric orchestra can show what makes PSHS the best by having something different.”