The Youth of Portland Take on Electric Light Orchestra Like Never Before

Vortex Music Magazine

Portland’s School of Rock will tackle a project nobody has been daring enough to touch at the Aladdin Theater on June 28.

A School of Rock student performing at the Wonder Ballroom in 2014—click to see a whole gallery of photos by Autumn AndelA School of Rock student performing at the Wonder Ballroom in 2014—click to see a whole gallery of photos by Autumn Andel

The music scene in Portland is a vibrant one. It seems like it may be impossible to walk into a club or venue with a local band on the bill without falling in love with what you hear. It's easy to be completely blown away by how much talent is housed right here in our own city. The most amazing part of this phenomenon might be the fact that the youth of our city keep adding to its spectrum.

On Sunday, June 28, Portland’s School of Rock will showcase these emerging talents in a way that has never been done before. Teaming up with the Metropolitan Youth Symphony, another amazing program for the musically gifted youth of PDX, the Aladdin Theater will host a tribute to Birmingham, England, rock group Electric Light Orchestra, completely performed by youth.

“It was a lot of work putting this together,” says David Coniglio, the music director at School of Rock Portland and a member of 1939 Ensemble. “The biggest hurdle was that there is no published score for the strings.”

This is where the story of putting this show together takes a turn for the astounding. With no published score, Coniglio spent a solid month talking to publishing companies trying to track down what was maybe impossible to find. Finally, his search led him to a woman in England whose husband was a member of ELO. From her, Coniglio finally found the arrangements that would make this show possible.

With the music in tow, Coniglio met with MYS to see how their players would handle it.

“We went to their rehearsal spot and we just played through the music. It was quite remarkable how well they could sight read it,” Coniglio says. “The Met provided their star players. They’re like ninjas, really.”

Since this is the School of Rock’s first time working with MYS, the students were faced with a challenge; however, despite the hurdles, the students have been amazing at pulling through. Watch a clip of student rehearsal below.

“It’s so different for them,” Coniglio says. “It’s one thing to make a mistake at their own show, but with the strings added, it’s a whole new challenge. It’s a bit of pressure, but they’ve done a great job.”

No School of Rock in the nation has ever done anything like this before. It’s unprecedented territory, and it’s no question that the musical talent of Portland should be the ones to finally pull it off.

“Everything about the show is really positive about the Portland community,” Coniglio says. “It really shows what our music scene is capable of. It’s amazing.”

The proceeds from the show will benefit PROWUS (which helps to provide musical scholarships for young musicians in need) as well as support tuition grants for Metropolitan Youth Symphony students.

Catch School of Rock Portland and the Metropolitan Youth Symphony playing ELO classics such as "Mr. Blue Sky," "Evil Woman," "Livin' Thing" and "Turn To Stone" at the Aladdin Theater this Sunday, June 28 at 7pm.

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