Junior Cooper Brown on one of Lakewood Project's viper violins. (photo courtesy Randy Varcho)
Lakewood High School’s The Lakewood Project, the world’s first high school rock orchestra, will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a reunion concert Saturday, May 25, at 7:30 p.m. in the Lakewood Civic Auditorium.
Under the direction of Beth Hankins, the Lakewood Project has grown into the premiere youth rock orchestra in the state if not the country. The concert will bring together many of the nearly 100 Lakewood Project alumni to play along with the current members on a number of songs, kicking off with The Beatles’ “Yesterday.” Alumni are traveling from all over the country to return for this reunion weekend, evidence of the devotion Lakewood Project breeds among those who have experienced it. More than 80% of the alumni continue to play and many do so professionally.
The Lakewood Project was born from collaboration between Hankins and renowned violinist and violin maker Mark Wood. Back in 2001, Wood was in Cleveland performing with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and also participated in a music program at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame during which he met Hankins. Hankins approached Wood with the idea of composing a piece of music especially for her high school orchestra and outfitting them with an assortment of Viper electric violins, violas, and cellos manufactured by his company, Wood Violins.
Wood eventually came to Cleveland to meet with the faculty and give a lecture and performance to the students to get them excited about plans for an electric orchestra. Those plans turned into The Lakewood Project, which debuted at a Rock Hall performance in Jan. 2003.
The concert on May 25 is part of an Orchestra Reunion Weekend that kicks off with the Lakewood High Orchestras concert May 24 at 7 p.m. that includes the four other school orchestras that are under Hankins' direction.
“The Lakewood Project is an extension of the Lakewood Orchestra program, which has grown tremendously in the past 20 years,” Hankins said. “The students of each organization are dedicated and extremely talented. If you have not heard the Lakewood Orchestra program or The Lakewood Project, you are truly in for a treat.”
Tickets are $3 for the Friday concert and $10 for The Lakewood Project.