Public Media for Central Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Violectric celebrates 10 years of classical music that rocks!

Ways To Subscribe
Violectric Michelle Jones.jpg
Violectric
/
Violectric founder Michelle Jones plays during the group's annual holiday show at the Lake Eola amphitheater.

It's the 10th anniversary of Vioelectric, Central Florida's “classical musicians who rock.” The group is famous for its violin and viola takes on rock songs and classical instruments upgraded with unique light art. Violectric founder Michelle Jones discusses the group's interactive shows, as well as its educational programs, and shares what inspired her to keep it all going for ten years and counting.

Michelle Jones:
Well, it started when I was very, very young with my mother. She started me before I was even three years old on violin and piano. And then, when I was about nine years old, she says, "Okay, you gotta go somewhere else, you need to learn from somebody else." So then I went to a small girls' school in South Carolina, which is where I'm from, called Converse College, and they had a pre-college department. And then that was music, and then for business I came to Rollins College right here in Winter Park and got my degree for business and communication at Rollins College.

Nicole Darden Creston:
So what made you put Violectric together in the first place?

Michelle Jones:
Well, of course, we've seen a lot of strings being used in rock bands. For decades and decades. The Beatles is really famous for using them like on the song "Eleanor Rigby" and "Here Comes the Sun." And then "Yesterday," and, and so forth, they've made it really, really popular to use strings, and then later artists as well - earlier and later ones too. So I'm like, "Well, what if we have just the instrumental parts?" Because I've always loved instrumental albums, like, even those a lot of them have vocals as well, like one of my favorite orchestras is Electric Light Orchestra. And I've been truly thankful to them for their inspirations and their guidance over the years, because they've been friends of mine for years. And then the only thing when I came up with the idea back in 2007, we formally put it together in 2008, but the idea started around December of 2007. For this to start, and with that, the only thing that was really out there was Apocalyptica. And I love them too.

Nicole Darden Creston:
The education program, do they get to play your fabulous lighted instruments? Or is that just for the concerts?

Michelle Jones:
We let them try them. Yes. Yes, it's just we don't have enough. We only have what we use when we play. But they love the lighted bows, they love the lighted instruments. And we do let them - of course, they get to try them, we unfortunately only have what we have for our band. I mean, that would be something we should consider looking at doing to expand. So maybe we can get a grant for that, to expand the light and instruments so that we can have enough for an orchestra. That would be fantastic.

Nicole Darden Creston:
That would spark some serious joy with all of your students of all ages. Tell me about the idea of the lighted instruments. Where did that come from?

Michelle Jones:
Oh, that I give full credit to my husband for that. My husband is Jerry Jones. And you know, we thought about putting lights on things before because light art is my favorite medium. And he knows that. Anything that lights up! (laughs) And so he said, Well, let's light up your instrument. And I said, Okay, and so we started that, probably in 2014, I think was the first time we tried it. And it was just, you know, the cheap little lights, somewhere, putting them on an instrument to see how it works. We took it to a corporate event and tried it out. Oh my gosh, the crowd went crazy! And then my husband is the one who designed all the lighting technology and everything that goes on them so that they are completely controllable to go with the stage show. That technology, he invented. Oh, yeah, we're the only ones with it because he invented it. And we are not giving out that secret! (laughs)

Nicole Darden Creston:
I don’t blame you one bit!

Michelle Jones:
But it's fully controllable. So it’s part of the show. So a lighting designer, we just tell the lighting designer, hey, here you go. It's like a special box that again, my husband built and created and gives it to them and then he has full control of our instruments. And that was in 2015 when we debuted that. And then we had those instruments up until last year in 2021, where we partnered with a new instrument maker out of the UK called Bridge Violins. And they built these instruments to our specifications. For the bows, my husband actually, again worked with Corning for fiber optics, and now there's this special fiber optic that we have exclusive use of…and it uses lasers. So it's actually a laser bow. It's not, it's not LED, it’s lasers. And this tiny little fiber optic fiber is on the top of every bow. And it scatters light, it doesn't just shoot it down to the end, it actually scatters it and shoots it out at the end. And so with a fog or a smoky effect, it looks really cool with the lasers.

Nicole Darden Creston:
You get to mingle with the crowd if you want?

Michelle Jones:
Right, we're completely interactive and engaging entertainment. While we are actually playing live.

Nicole Darden Creston:
Ten years-plus of doing this! It's hard for a lot of people to stick with the same thing for 10 minutes! So tell me what it is that motivates you to get up in the morning and do this again.

Michelle Jones:
I love it. It's in your DNA. I don't know how to say it any other way. You either love performing, or you don't. And in our case, and I mean, “ours” as in “everybody in our group,” they love it. And we love doing it together. It's one thing to play by yourself. And it's fun, don't get me wrong, I do enjoy actually just playing my instrument. And I love to practice too. I like to just sit and really focus on what kind of sound, what kind of notes, what kind of things I need to work on. And we all do that. But there is nothing more powerful than coming together as an ensemble, no matter what the ensemble, with people that you love creating with, and putting on a show. It truly is that the end product is much, much greater than the sum of its parts. And the audience is giving us their attention, their time, and more importantly, their energy. It’s what drives us to always want to do our best and give it back, tenfold, 100-fold, to the audience and to the community. And that is what makes us happy because we're leaving an imprint on every single person who sees or hears, and we love that.

Nicole came to Central Florida to attend Rollins College and started working for Orlando’s ABC News Radio affiliate shortly after graduation. She joined WMFE in 2010. As a field reporter, news anchor and radio show host in the City Beautiful, she has covered everything from local arts to national elections, from extraordinary hurricanes to historic space flights, from the people and procedures of Florida’s justice system to the changing face of the state’s economy. When local issues have received international attention, Nicole has reported worldwide for TV news outlets such as CNN, HLN, ABC, Fox News Channel, and BBC News 24.<br><br>When she’s off duty, Nicole can often be found performing with one of Central Florida’s many theatre companies, or taking in local arts, culture and music.
More Episodes