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From left, Dexter Simpson, Mary Beth Brown and Taylor Hollen play their cellos Tuesday during a performance by London Central High School musicians at Liberty Elementary School on RAF Lakenheath.
From left, Dexter Simpson, Mary Beth Brown and Taylor Hollen play their cellos Tuesday during a performance by London Central High School musicians at Liberty Elementary School on RAF Lakenheath. (Charlie Coon / S&S)

RAF LAKENHEATH, England — Making sweet music is hard when you’re drawing a bow across strings.

“It takes a lot of talent to handle,” said Ethan Pryor, a sophomore who plays violin in the London Central High School String Ensemble. “It’s hard to make the sound come out properly.”

Pryor and fellow string group members toured Department of Defense Dependents Schools in England last week playing for elementary school kids. They are the only high school string ensemble in DODDS Europe, according to their teacher, Cary Sands.

The students played Monday for pupils at the RAF Croughton and RAF Alconbury elementary schools, Tuesday at RAF Lakenheath and RAF Feltwell, and Wednesday at RAF Menwith Hill.

“It’s so great,” said Laura Deme, another violinist. “You get to do something you love in front of people. I think it’s cool. It makes me special when I’m up there.

“Some people are like, ‘Oh, it’s kind of geeky.’ It doesn’t matter. It’s what you love. It’s your passion.”

There are 11 members of the ensemble. They play violin, viola and cello. They were joined in concert last week by London Central’s concert choir and Women’s Vocal Ensemble.

The fast-moving, 30-minute shows included trios, solos and groups performing music by G.F. Handel, Robert Schumann, Franz Joseph Haydn and others.

The strings kids say they’re into popular European bands such as System of a Down and Flogging Molly. They even get into old-timers such as AC/DC.

Dexter Simpson, a senior, said he sometimes feels like busting out on stage and rocking on his cello.

“I get that edge sometimes,” he said. Maybe some day he’ll take up the electric bass or drums, he added.

They play for fun. Simpson said he likes playing Christmas songs such as “Angels for the Realm of Glory.”

Sand, the music director at London Central, got the attention of the fidgety grade-schoolers at Lakenheath when he complimented them for sitting up straight with their hands on their laps.

About 100 of them sat four rows deep in the front of the school’s auditorium. Even the fighter jets roaring overhead after taking off at Lakenheath could not distract them.

Sand said he began the strings ensemble at London Central in 1996. He said he could play a wind instrument with decent results after just a few weeks of practice. Stringed instruments are a different story.

“They are easily twice as hard to play,” Sand said. “It’s a whole other way of expressing yourself through music.

“For the strings kids it’s also the discipline. They’re really pouring themselves into their instruments.

“For some kids, that’s exactly what they’re looking for.”

Pryor said he went to a classical concert with his parents when he was about 6. That got his attention. He took up the violin at 8.

“I’d say it’s a pretty cool instrument,” he said.

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