Generally when students perform together in an orchestra, they play a series of classical pieces for a seated audience of their parents and peers. When the JoeyDCares orchestra performs, they play modern hits like Pharell Williams' "Happy," while the audience dances, sings along and bounces a beach ball throughout the auditorium.
Sunday, JoeyDCares Rock Orchestra will hold a "Rockin' the Cause" benefit concert at Century High School, raising money for the Nathan Chris Baker Foundation, a Sykesville nonprofit which raises money for families in need.
The JoeyDCares Rock Orchestra consists of area students who perform a variety of rock, jazz, Motown and soul. Songs performed include "Sympathy for the Devil" by the Rolling Stones, "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)" by the Jackson 5 and "Annie's Song" by John Denver. Director Joey Dundore said the lively music connects both with the students performing and the audiences attending the show.
"It really gives something of a different take for both the musicians and the audience," Dundore said. "If you're doing Van Halen with a harp and French horns, that's something that's pretty unique."
Edie Lee, who works with the orchestra, said the group performs at charity events throughout the year, but it plans for one major concert each year to benefit a nonprofit. For the past two years, the orchestra's main concert has benefited the Wounded Warrior Project, but Lee said this year, they were looking to work with a local organization that they could get involved with the show.
After scouting ideas for local nonprofits that worked with children, Lee said they chose the Nathan Chris Baker Foundation from Sykesville to partner with the show.
The foundation was formed in 2012 by Justin and Katie Baker following the drowning death of their son Nathan. Nathan's school, Mechanicsville Elementary, was raising money for a new playground. Justin said the family decided to request memorial contributions to help out the school in lieu of flowers.
"We were able to raise $80,000 within four months to build the playground," Justin said. "We realized we were surrounded by so many community friends that we needed to do something for other people."
The foundation has raised funds for a playground at Sandymount Elementary and funds "Days of Greatness," where it provides families going through a time of struggle with a free day of activities. The money raised at the concert will go to support the Days of Greatness program.
"For us, it was personal, because we went through it, and we knew what it meant to have that kind of support," Justin said. "It's just a reprieve from the little things, like when you don't have to worry about making the family dinner. That's what we're trying to do for others. These families could use a break from reality."
The show will feature a musical tribute to the Nathan Chris Baker Foundation, with a slideshow dedication to Nathan running during the show.
Dundore said this year they're introducing a new percussive element - in the vein of Blue Man Group or Stomp - into the performance. Dundore said they will open with the percussive performance and blend into their version of U2.
"There's not a lot of rock orchestras in the country like ours," Lee said. "It's a unique combination of instruments, music and people that don't generally mix. We're very fortunate to have someone in this community who has this group and uses it to help the community come together."