The Grackle

Observations, Reflections and Miscellany from the Wacoan

Vampires & Violins

High school orchestra brings music to the big screen

8 years ago

By Kaila Lancaster

Halloween is drawing near. I know you’re dying to find a cultural experience that satiates your devilish desire for a spooky good time. The Midway High School orchestra knows just how to celebrate this ghostly season.

Every year since 2011 the orchestra has hosted a special concert during which it accompanies the 1922 silent vampire film “Nosferatu” with an original score under the direction of Dr. Beau Benson. Who has written this score, you ask? Benson himself composed this unique arrangement specifically for his students.

“The whole thing came about as a way of doing a fundraiser that didn’t involve the students (or me) selling chocolate bars or wrapping paper; that was something I was not a big fan of when I was a student,” Benson said.

The logical conclusion? Write a score to the iconic vampire thriller and sell tickets. One hundred percent of the proceeds go toward the orchestra’s annual spring trip. In addition to the fundraising opportunity, the “Nosferatu” production is a chance for students to further their skills. It’s a win-win situation — curriculum-enhancing material and an opportunity to fund the educational excursion. Talk about an inventive solution.

Why choose to score this particular film? Besides being such a cultural icon and staple in entertainment — “It’s even popped up on “[Spongebob Squarepants],” Benson notes — it came to Benson in a dream, a fitting inspiration for the creation of a score to a vampire film.
“I had a vision in a dream. I was conducting an orchestra alongside a silent movie, and it was right around this time of year,” Benson said. “I woke up thinking that would be kind of neat to do.”

He toyed with the idea for years until he finally decided to “sit down and do this,” as any casual genius would do. The summer before his second year at Midway, Benson would write and create the score for hours on end, figuring out how to blend educational and entertaining components. The rest is history.

Benson’s students are just as impressed with his composition as audiences.

“They were pleasantly surprised [with the score],’” Benson said. “They were probably thinking, ‘Oh, Benson wrote this?’ but those thoughts evolved into ‘Oh! This is actually kind of good!’”

Benson’s score definitely works well with all levels of students, perfect for a high school orchestra where some kids are still learning and others are more proficient. This piece is also unique because of his students’ input.

“In a sense it was somewhat of a collaborative process with the students,” Benson said. He would receive feedback from the students as they were rehearsing the score and tweak sections here and there.

Want to experience this one-of-a-kind creepy concert and film? You are in luck! Midway High School’s 2016 production of “Nosferatu” is Thursday, October 27, at Midway High School. Tickets are $10 at the door, and the show begins at 7:00 p.m.