The Southerner

Dakota Jazz Combo gives South students

Elise Sommers, Staff writer

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Recording their own CD.  Networking with prominent figures in their area.  Performing at festivals and young artist’s series around the Twin Cities.  To many aspiring musicians, it sounds like a dream.  But for seniors Sam Wildenauer, Joe Suihkonen, and five other talented young jazz musicians in Minnesota, this is a reality.

Recently, the Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education announced the 2011-2012 edition of the Dakota Combo, a highly competitive jazz group for high school students.  The Combo’s goal is to “provide intensive learning and performance opportunities for the area’s top high school jazz musicians,” according to the Dakota Foundation’s website.  

Of the seven spots available in the group, two are filled by South students:  Suihkonen plays on the trumpet and Wildenauer, plays string bass.

According to Wildenauer, auditions were more than just technique.  “We played two songs with a live band of professionals,” Wildenauer stated,  “it was mostly just about your sound, and improvising was very important.”

Performances for the Dakota Jazz Combo are scheduled over the next year.  according to the Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education website,, they will participate in an advanced Master Class, led by nationally known drummer, Matt Slocum this October.  In the winter, area schools will be receiving visits from the group,

Later, in the spring of 2012, they will be making appearances in MacPhail School of Music’s “Jazz Thursdays,” at the Dakota Jazz Club, the Artist’s Quarter Twin Cities Jazz Society’s Young Artist Series, and the 2012 Twin Cities Jazz Festival, according to

Until then, these seven will meet with their director, Adam Linz, the Jazz Coordinator at MacPhail, twice a week for rehearsals.  

Despite their only very recent start, Wildenauer has already felt the benefits.  One of the people he has gotten a chance to network with is Andrea Canter, a Minneapolis jazz blogger, and editor at the Jazz Police.  “I’ve scheduled performances for other groups I’m in independently,” Wildenauer said, linking this to him meeting with Canter.  “We meet a lot of important people in the jazz community.”

But most of all, it’s what they do, not what they get from it.  “It’s sweet,” Wildenauer stated, “to work with other players who care a lot about making the music we make.”

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About the Writer
Elise Sommers, Editor-in-Chief

My name is Elise Sommers, and I am the Editor-in-Chief at the Southerner. I am a senior at South. The teamwork of all of us contributing and working to...

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Dakota Jazz Combo gives South students