GOTAK was started in 2006 by the high school’s orchestra director, Melissa Meyers. She said the group’s original musicians voted to keep the meaning of the name a mystery.
“It’s an acronym, so it means something,” Meyers explained. “But it sounds Gaelic, so we kept it and put it (on the group’s black T-shirts) in Celtic script.”
The group played an hour’s worth of Irish and bluegrass music, including several solos. Myrtle Lemon, an 11th-grader, put down her violin to sing a traditional Irish ballad; and ninth-grader Justin Merriman switched between viola and his banjo, leading a sing-along to “The Beverly Hillbillies” theme.
Meyers urged the crowd to clap along, especially during the bouncy Irish jigs.
“This was a ton of fun today,” Wright said after the concert.
Larry Halverson, who works for the library, joined the group on pennywhistle. Meyers filled in for the group’s missing cellist, but she’s a classically trained musician whose main instrument is the cello.
Most, if not all, of the group also plays in the school’s concert and symphony orchestras.
“It’s different fun,” senior John Lahr explained playing for GOTAK and the orchestra. “Performing is the best part.”
Wright, who also plays in the West Michigan Youth Symphony, said GOTAK allows the musicians to expand their repertoire.
“In orchestra, we play a lot more classical pieces,” she explained. “In here, we get to play other alternatives like fiddle music and any kind of pop music. We’ve played The Beatles before. So it’s just a way to experience different types of music.”
Meyers said the string instruments — violin, viola, cello, bass — are meant for more than orchestra and chamber music.
“It’s also rock, it’s also Irish and bluegrass, and all kinds of music,” she said. “I think it’s important that students have a well-rounded repertoire when it comes to music. Just like anything — it makes it fun, it makes it more enjoyable.”
GOTAK plays gigs all year — at nursing homes and school ceremonies, and during with the school’s orchestra concerts. They’ll perform a few songs at the start of the orchestras’ spring concert in May.
“We memorize all this music — and you can practice, practice, practice — but performing is when you really have fun, and get to learn what you really know and what you need to work on,” Meyers said.
To see more photos from the concert, click here.