I’ve been on a huge Wilco kick lately. Seriously. In the past two weeks I’ve listened to everything from “A.M.” to “The Whole Love,” and enjoyed every second of it. Jeff Tweedy’s songwriting, and the group’s skill constantly left me in awe. I was hooked. I had to learn more about these people who had brought me so much joy. So, like most would, I did a quick Google search and soon found myself lost in an endless maze of Wikipedia articles, learning things like Jeff Tweedy’s early influences included The Ramones and country music, and that bassist John Stirratt was a member of Phi Kappa Tau. 

As I kept digging through the Wilco archives, I stumbled onto a video interview with current drummer, Glenn Kotche, from 2007. During the interview Kotche mentioned some very interesting information. He revealed that he was member of the Lake Park High School drumline and… wait for it…. a former Bands of America participant, and Summer Symposium Percussion TA!

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I was shocked, and honestly a little embarassed that I didn’t already know this for a couple of reasons.

1. I am a Music for All Staff Member.

2. Wilco is one of my all-time favorite bands

3. Glenn Kotche is an amazing drummer!

After letting this sink in, I realized, it made perfect sense. Of course Kotche is a BOA alum. He is one of the most talented drummers in music, a strong supporter of music education, and uses percussion in an intelligent and very interesting way. In the video above (you have to take a look, just trust me) he mentions how his music background has influenced playing with Wilco. Specifically, he talks about approaching percussion as not just a method of keeping the beat, but rather of contributing to the musical experience by adding texture or color, as it would in an orchestra or another setting*. This is something Kotche attributes to his years spent studying percussion at Lake Park and with MFA adjudicator, clinician and evaluator, James Campbell at the University of Kentucky. He says that these past experiences gave him the ability to play a variety of different styles, whether it’s backing a soft ballad, or creating chaos in a rock environment. 

The skills Kotche picked up during his education/BOA career aren’t all musical, either. As we hear from many former students and participators, Kotche’s experiences taught him how to work, think quickly, and play in front of a large audience. It gave him confidence and an increased ability to muli-task and analyze. His success is due to, in part, the instruction he received from, and interactions he had with music educators throughout his life.

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*Check out this song, “I am trying to break your heart” from Kotche’s first album with Wilco, “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” for a great example of using percussion as a texture or color.

The moral of story here is this: there are BOA alums all around us, in all sorts of fields. From lawyers, to doctors, to teachers, to rockstars, those who benefitted from music education can be found everywhere. Individuals like Kotche were afforded the opportunity to pursue music in their childhood, and we must ensure that coming generations receive the same chance. Because who knows? The next Glenn Kotche may be competing in the Bands of America Championships this fall, and we could sure use a few more like him around.