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PORTLAND -- When you hear the word orchestra you may think of the serene sounds from composers like Bach and Beethoven.

Some young musicians who will play at Portland s Newmark Theater on Friday would like you to add Pat Benatar and The Beatles to that list. They are members of the Portland Youth Rock Orchestra.

At just 12-years old, Ava Creasy plays classical music and The Kinks on her viola.

With the rock I ve had to learn to play faster, she said. That s just what the founder of the group had in mind.

It s a great way to blend the traditional elements taught in classical music with the excitement of rock and roll, explained Brent Gunter.

The orchestra is in its first year and has about 50 musicians in three groups from beginning to advanced.

There s that carrot of being in the top group, said Ava s mother Janet, it gives her incentive to improve and do her best.

Blake Johnston plays in the advanced group and has gained a new appreciation, too.

I didn t think a guitar could fit into classical music. I thought it would be boring, he said. But if you listen, it gives a new edge.

The orchestra is looking to expand and will hold auditions for the next two months.

We are looking for kids who are dedicated and want to play, remarked Gunter.

The age range of the group is wide with musicians from 7 to 23. Ava plans to return next year playing a blend of music with her bow that she s come to believe in.

I love practicing rock with the orchestra. It s so much better than playing alone, she said.

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