In their five decades of performing, Kids From Wisconsin have thrilled hundreds of thousands of state residents with their high-energy and high-level singing, dancing and instrumental talents.
Comments from current Kids indicate performers are impressive off stage as well.
“I’ve enjoyed meeting the people in the group; everyone is so welcoming and supportive,” said Brennan Anderson, a baritone from Eau Claire. “It’s an awesome atmosphere to be part of.”
Anderson is among this summer’s lineup of Kids From Wisconsin, which will perform at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 13, in Pablo Center at the Confluence’s RCU Theatre.
While they’re in town on July 13, the singer/dancers and musicians in the troupe also will lead a free workshop for youths ages 7 to 14; registration is required.
Established in 1968, Kids From Wisconsin feature about 35 performers, ages 15-20, chosen by audition who spend their summer performing across the state. That includes multiple performances daily throughout the run of the Wisconsin State Fair in West Allis (this year’s fair dates are Aug. 1-11).
The current production, titled “The Beat Goes On,” features music by, among others, Billy Joel, Tina Turner, Cher and Queen.
The visit is sponsored by Eau Claire Jazz Inc., a local group that helps present the Eau Claire Jazz Festival as well as events such as the fundraiser Gatsby’s Gala. Quentin Volk, operations manager for Jazz Inc., talked about the entertainment value of the troupe’s performance.
“It’s just a very amped up and more energetic Broadway show,” he said, noting the medleys of well-loved tunes sung and performed with choreography. “There is nothing but good things to say about that from anyone that goes and sees it.”
Each year’s ensemble comprises residents from throughout the state. This season, Anderson and six other Kids have ties to west-central Wisconsin:
• Chase Bucheger, tenor, Chippewa Falls (attends UW-Eau Claire).
• Dominick Jackson, woodwind, River Falls.
• Alex Mazur, trombone, Jim Falls (attends UW-Eau Claire).
• Holly Meyer, soprano, Mayville (attends UW-Eau Claire).
• Nicholas Phalen, trumpet, Ringle (will attend UW-Eau Claire).
• Spencer Rhoten, tenor, Eau Claire.
Anderson as well as Jackson and Mazur took time out of the Kids’ hectic schedule of rehearsing, traveling and performing to answer questions via email about what it’s like to be in the troupe. Asked about the most enjoyable aspect of the experience so far, the positive feeling about fellow Kids was unanimous:
• Mazur: “For me, I’ve enjoyed creating relationships with so many people that I know will continue far beyond the summer.”
• Jackson: “The most enjoyable part of being in Kids From Wisconsin are the many opportunities we get to further our own skills, goals, and character traits through our encounters with troupe members and the new people we meet on the road.”
The three also commented on what has been the most important learning experience they’ve encountered. Their responses touched on varied lessons:
• Anderson: “I’ve learned that there will always be an obstacle you have to face. And whether you clear the obstacle or not, you have to learn from it and keep moving forward in life.”
• Mazur: “(The group) has taught me just how powerful collaboration can be. From the singer/dancers to the band to the lighting and sound techs, all our strengths combine into something truly incredible.”
• Jackson: “Our perspective on life’s challenges is crucial to our success. Minimizing, learning, and overcoming our own mistakes will aid in our consistent success.”
Troupe members will share such wisdom with local youth in the workshop. That opportunity is particularly appealing to Jazz Inc., Volk noted, mentioning the importance of education in the group’s mission.
“(Kids members) are going to be very approachable and in the circle of influence for these kids,” he said.
As for what specific advice might be offered, here’s a bit of a preview from the Kids asked what they think is important to share in these situations:
• Anderson: “I believe that the most valuable lesson to walk away with from the workshops is to be confident in yourself and express your love and your passion for what you enjoy. No matter how others may react to it. You do what you enjoy.”
• Mazur: “I hope the participants leave knowing that making music with others is something really special, that focused effort can take them anywhere, and that learning from others can be incredibly valuable.”
• Jackson: “As we work with other kids, we try and instill the ideals of putting in hard work for things they are passionate about (that) will lead them to success. At the workshops we show them how much fun they can have with music as we have found pleasure in being a part of Kids, which we have worked very hard for.”
In other words, the Kids From Wisconsin performances are about more than the music.