River Falls senior Dominick Jackson decided to try out for the Kids From Wisconsin because he wanted to meet new people, make new friends and challenge himself as a musician. Now that he is a member of the traveling musical group of 15- to 20-years-olds, the experience has exceeded his every expectation.
"It is truly a blessing to be able to spend this much time with this many talented people all giving our all every day," said Jackson, who plays alto and tenor saxophone. "There is a new level of expectation. Even our 'bad' shows will be good shows for the audience. We are always performing and keeping that mindset will help us keep up the standards set through the previous years and it helps us mentally 'compete' with ourselves."
Community members will get a chance to see Kids From Wisconsin perform at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls Wall Amphitheater, 410 S. Third St., at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 23.
When he found out he was going to be part of the Kids From Wisconsin, Jackson was excited, but also nervous to spend the whole summer away from him family, friends and his other interests. In the end, he said knew he couldn't pass up the opportunity.
"My biggest goal is consistency. It hasn't been fully established yet, but we've had one great show and a couple good shows so far. If we are able to achieve a high level of consistency, then our shows will only continue to get better," Jackson said. "It's never over for me until I'm sitting in my seat back on the bus at the end of the night. I change my perspective as we face adversity in order to try and maintain consistency."
In school, Jackson is part of the Wind Symphony, marching band and the jazz program. According to band director Joe Coughlin, Jackson is an extremely talented and hard working musician and is one of the top musicians Coughlin has worked with in his 17 years of teaching.
"He makes it challenging as a director to find ways to continue to critique and give him constructive feedback because he is always so prepared that he's already considered and applied much of what I would discuss with him," Coughlin said. "What sets him apart from other talented students is his practice and work ethic. Dominick is not only a naturally gifted musician, but he practices and continues to work at his music with great tenacity. The combination of the two is extremely rare to find."
Jackson has been playing the saxophone since he was in sixth grade and has performed in several groups both in and outside of school, including two Minnesota Youth Jazz bands. He also performs at local restaurants, such as Urban Olive and Vine in Hudson.
"I enjoy 'jazz' the most. It is more of an all encompassing term for many different styles of music usually having to do with some form of improvisation. I enjoy performing more funk-oriented tunes because I feel as though I groove harder with them," Jackson said.
In addition to his passion for music, Jackson enjoys outdoor power sports, such as four-wheeling, snowmobiling and sailing.
"I'm mostly focused on music for now. I'm hoping to further my interest in finance as a career, but I still have a long way to go," Jackson said.
The Kids From Wisconsin experience
To become part of the Kids From Wisconsin, Jackson had to go through an audition process that included performing his prepared etudes or repertoire, including jazz and classical selections in addition to improvising and sight reading. Following the performance evaluation, Jackson was interviewed the group's executive producer to get a feel for his personality. Jackson was notified of his selection several weeks later.
"My favorite part is mostly being able to comfortably perform and interact with the other kids on stage. As we become more comfortable and focused, we interact more with the audience and it becomes an overall better show," Jackson said. "Seeing the smiles on the faces of the kids who come to our outreach events and seeing new kids who come in with new ideas and cool dance moves will really make your day."
Kids From Wisconsin comprises 22 singers/dancers and 14 band members, with a few additional kids selected as understudies to fill in as needed.
Jackson's first interaction with the group was a minicamp in May. Official camp started June 1 at Wisconsin Lutheran College near Milwaukee. Most days, Jackson and his fellow musicians and singers/dancers would start rehearsals at 9 a.m. and end with a final rehearsal between 9 and 11 p.m. After several weeks of practice, the Kids From Wisconsin had its premiere performance on June 20.
River Falls show
Both of Jackson's band directors, Coughlin and Bryan Jaeckel, said htye are excited to have Kids From Wisconsin come to River Falls.
"It means a lot for us to have a student be selected to be a part of KFW. We're very proud of all our students who are able to go beyond what we have to offer at the high school. It says a lot about the student and their commitment to music, and we just hope that we have played at least a little part in developing that commitment within themselves," Jaeckel said. "Anytime that a student is able to help get the River Falls name out there is an incredible thing. We want people to know what we are trying to accomplish here, and that our students are incredibly talented."
From what Coughlin and Jaeckel can remember, River Falls High School has had two other students selected to be part of the Kids From Wisconsin, including Dominick Domeyer and Will Woodward.
"The group is a high energy very entertaining group. The community is in for a treat, and for there to be a direct River Falls connection is a special thing," Jaeckel said.
If you go
Who: Kids From Wisconsin
When 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 23
Where: Wall Amphitheater, 410 S. Third St., River Falls