PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — The Platteville High School auditorium was rocking Friday morning, thanks to Las Vegas-based rock violin group Femmes of Rock starring Bella Electric Strings.
From Led Zeppelin and Lynyrd Skynyrd to Michael Jackson and Metallica, the violinists performed hits for the high school student body as well as the band and orchestra students from Platteville Middle School.
Junior Aiden Sargent was among those impressed by the performance.
“I thought it was really unique,” he said. “I’ve always been a big fan of classic rock, and to see these songs performed with traditionally orchestral instruments was really cool.”
The Bella Strings were in the area ahead of a scheduled Friday night performance at the University of Dubuque’s Heritage Center.
The performers in Platteville included founder and lead violinist Nina DiGregorio and violinists Christina Riegart, Chandra Meibalane and Carissa Werner.
Members of the group took time throughout their performance to engage with the students, answering questions about music, the music industry and their favorite artists.
Following a set filled with dueling violin solos, DiGregorio said doing educational outreach and school clinics is a way to show students the many different performance avenues that learning an instrument can provide.
“Traditionally, people think of rock music and a guitar, and when they think of a violin, they think classical (music), so part of our goal with the show is to kind of break the violin out of the box it’s been put in,” she said.
Senior Quinn Kafar also enjoyed the group’s rock set list.
“I grew up on ’70s and ’80s classic rock, so for them to open up with Led Zeppelin, that was pretty cool,” he said. “It would be awesome to see them do a full show. I just like how they did the classic rock songs. I’m a rocker.”
Platteville High School has a popular strings and orchestra program. Dozens of students raised their hands and cheered when the Bella Strings asked how many were in band or orchestra.
After the show, Riegart talked about the influence of her musical instructors throughout her youth as being formative for her personally and professionally.
“I wouldn’t be performing professionally if it weren’t for my middle school orchestra director,” she said. “It’s so cool because he has a bunch of students that are now professional musicians, so I think it’s so important to have that positive influence in schools.”
Werner also is a full-time elementary school music teacher.
“You can look at the benefit it does, even for the students that don’t go on to play professionally,” she said. “There’s been so many studies done about how learning to play a musical instrument increases your test-taking skills, your intelligence, your focus, your drive. It’s just so good for you.”
DiGregorio said the group also works to promote female empowerment, especially in the music industry.
“We’re all educated. We all have college degrees. Two of us are mothers that also raise children,” she said. “All of the girls who perform with us are talented, smart, strong females and not just something to look at onstage. I think that’s important that we forged a way for women to be strong in the music industry.”