- The Washington Times - Friday, August 7, 2009

On Saturday night at Nationals Park, the familiar crack won’t be the only sound emanating from a baseball bat.

Glenn Donnellan, a violinist with the National Symphony Orchestra, will perform the national anthem using a violin made from a wooden bat. That will be an unusual sight, but Donnellan, who has been with the NSO since 1997, said the story behind the invention is not that unusual.

“They asked me to play the electric violin for a young person’s concert in Arkansas,” he said. “There wasn’t an electric violin available, so I tried to make one. A bat was something that came to mind that was halfway toward a violin.”

One of the first songs Donnellan played on his instrument was “Eruption” by Eddie Van Halen. In his unique arrangement of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Donnellan tries to mimic the timbre of Van Halen’s electric guitar.

“I was trying to get that kind of heavy electric guitar sound that has a good distortion in it,” he said. “Some people don’t like that kind of sound… but whoever likes it or not, I think it falls along those lines.”

While making a violin out of a bat seems daunting, Donnellan, who has been playing the instrument since he was 4, said the process was actually straightforward.

“Once I got the bat and looked at it, I didn’t really need to change anything,” he said. “I haven’t changed anything on the bat except for punching holes in it with drills.”

On July 1, Donnellan posted a YouTube video of himself performing the national anthem. The video has since been viewed more than 150,000 times.

“People that I know come up and say to me, ‘Wow, that’s really cool,’ ” he said.

Thanks to that fame, he landed the opportunity to perform at Nationals Park. Of course, it also helped that he had a connection to the team. In the spring, a colleague at the NSO introduced Donnellan to Robert Tanenbaum, the brother-in-law of Nationals part owner Mark Lerner. Tanenbaum expressed interest in Donnellan’s distinctive version of the national anthem. In July, Tom Davis, the Nationals’ entertainment coordinator, contacted Donnellan to set up Saturday’s gig.

Donnellan said he hopes the performance will lead to engagements around the major leagues.

“It has only been [a month] since I put up the video, but I would love to perform again,” he said. “I haven’t started pursuing it much, but that would be fun and I would love to.”

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