The Kids from Wisconsin program was conceived and developed in 1969 by the late Mark Azzolina at the behest of then Wisconsin State Fair Board Chairman, Herbert P. Velzer and Fair Administrator Vernon G. Wendland. They were acting on a request by the late Governor Warren P. Knowles who, given the turbulence of the late 60's, wanted to show the nation the best face of Wisconsin's youth.

    Retired from the U.S. Air Force as a lieutenant colonel, Azzolina hand picked a musical staff to select and train the Kids at their first 17-day camp. More than 400 young entertainers were auditioned, and 60 achieved positions in the first edition of the Kids from Wisconsin. Since then nearly 800 young artists have participated in the program with many going on to excel as performers, music educators, college professors, entertainers, choreographers and top professionals in a wide variety of fields. We are very proud of our alumni and the role the organization has played in their growth.

    In 1982, Kids from Wisconsin, Ltd. became an independent, non-profit corporation. A board of directors was formed, and a contract was negotiated with the State Fair for daily performances during its 11-day run each year. Kids maintain offices at the Fair Park administration building in West Allis, Wisconsin.

    Key Constituents in the History of the Kids from Wisconsin

    Founding Artistic Staff Members
    Founder Mark Azzolina with his original staff members:
    Tom Terrien, choreographer; Nick Azzolina, orchestrator/tour and
    camp director; Kurt Chalgren, choral director.

    Warren P.

    Warren Knowles was born in River Falls, Wisconsin where he attended both elementary and high school. He received a BA from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota and a law degree from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He was a practicing attorney before entering politics in 1941 when he was first elected to the State Senate. He interrupted his political career to serve in the United States Navy during World War II. He returned to the Senate and was elected Lieutenant Governor in 1954. He became Governor of the State in 1964 and served three terms until he stepped down in 1971.

    It was during his tenure as Governor that Warren Knowles was faced with the turbulence of anti-war and civil rights demonstrations and found it necessary to call out the National Guard to maintain civil order. The unrest of the time prompted him to establish an entity that would focus on the stability and goodness of what he felt was the majority of youth in the State. He developed the Youth Power Program to create more jobs and activities for youth, and thus the Kids from Wisconsin were born! It was his proclamation that first named the KIDS official musical ambassadors of the State of Wisconsin.

    Governor Knowles became a member and the first Vice Chairman of the Kids from Wisconsin Board of Directors when the organization became an independent not for profit corporation in 1982. His sincere interest and knowledgeable expertise helped guide the Board through significant steps in establishing a firm basis on which to build. He remained connected to and active with the KIDS until the time of his death. Just prior to the KIDS 25th Anniversary in 1993, he was named honorary Chairman of the Board. Unfortunately he passed away three months before the reunion festivities took place.


    Born in Meriden, Connecticut, Mark Azzolina grew up in a strong music and military environment. He was influenced by his father, Philip, who was a conductor while in the armed forces. As a young man, Mark Azzolina toured with various bands, Guy and Victor Lombardo among them, before joining the Air Force. He was an accomplished percussionist and vocalist and was named Downbeat Magazine's “Newcomer of the Year” in the late forties.

    After entering the service during World War II, Mark Azzolina was in charge of the U. S. Armed Forces shows in Cairo, Egypt, and he organized the Anglo-American Armed Forces Revue, touring over 30 countries in the Middle East and Africa. He later headed the music and entertainment production of Armed Forces Radio-Television in Hollywood and became deputy director of the Far East Radio Network in Japan. As the senior ranking Air Force conductor in the 1960’s, Lt. Col. Mark Azzolina founded the NORAD Cavalcade of Music of the United States-Canadian North American Air Defense Command, which he conducted until his retirement in 1964.

    Mark Azzolina was an executive at Leblanc Company, a Kenosha based manufacturer of wind instruments. He conducted the Kenosha Pops Band during that period. In 1966, he became Music Director at the Wisconsin State Fair where he booked entertainment for the grandstand as well as the smaller stages. He instituted the popular band wagon, a group of musicians who participated in the daily parades and toured the grounds entertaining fairgoers throughout the Fair. He emceed the grandstand shows and conducted the “house band” known as the Cavalcade of Swing. It was under Fair sponsorship that he founded the Kids from Wisconsin program in 1969. He maintained his role as producer of the Kids for 27 years, fine-tuning the talents of nearly 600 young Wisconsinites.

    A community band was started in Boca Raton, Florida by Mark's father, Philip. When Philip passed away, Mark took over, added strings, and it became the Boca Raton Symphonic Pops. He served as artistic director and conductor of the Pops until 1992 and held the title of Artistic Director Laureate until his death. As maestro of the Pops he presented name artists such as Henry Mancini, Maureen McGovem, Florence Henderson, Marvin Hamlisch, Dave Brubeck, Al Hirt, Shirley MacLaine, Tony Bennett, Victor Borge and Bob Hope.

    KIDS alumni who knew him remember him affectionately as “Colonel.” Although the band was coached by staff members, he loved to take over rehearsals and put his own personal touch on the show. Drummers in particular remember his directions, “no, not like that! Like this”. . . and he proceeded to give his own interpretation. The words “Scop Skow” will live in the memory of those percussionists with whom he worked.

    Colonel Azzolina was demanding and was not easily satisfied. His demeanor exhibited confidence and pride. His commanding presence and professionalism left a mark on so many who have carried his standards into their own lives. His dream was to one day have former KIDS carry on the leadership of the organization, and to ensure this, he hand-picked the current producer to succeed him. In addition, alumni currently hold the positions of choreographer, assistant choreographer, camp band coach, assistant choral director, stage band director, tour director and assistant tour director. Mark Azzolina passed away in January, 1996.


    NORAD Band

    Colonel Azzolina stands in front of original Youth
    Building at State Fair Park. The building was razed
    circa 2000.
     Orchestrator, Tour
    & Camp Director

    Nick Azzolina, older brother of founder Mark Azzolina, played an integral role in the formation of the Kids from Wisconsin right from the onset. Nick handled several phases of the operation throughout his association with the KIDS program including band audition adjudicator, camp director, tour director, band coach and chief orchestrator. When he retired at the end of the 1996 season, Nick had written over 80% of the music the KIDS had performed since the first troupe took the stage.

    Like his brother, Nick came from a strong musical and military background. In addition to conducting, Nick was an accomplished woodwind player and played lead saxophone with many of the bands of the Big Band Era, playing alongside some of the great musicians of that era. He was inducted into the army in 1941 and served as assistant bandleader under his father, CWO Phillip J. Azzolina. He attended the Army Bandleader School in Washington DC and later became Commander-Conductor of the 17th Air Force based in Germany.

    Following retirement from military service he continued to perform and arrange music in the Miam Beach area. In addition to being an original member of the KIDS staff, he also joined his brother with the Boca Raton Symphonic Pops, arranging music and performing.

    Nick was also a gifted teacher and set high standards for the young musicians he worked with. He taught his students never to settle for mediocre when they could be the best. He was a quiet man whose exacting demeanor often frightened the young band people whom he coached, but they soon learned he was a tender hearted, compassionate soul. Known as “Uncle Nick” to at least 26 troupes, Nick Azzolina left his mark on countless young men and women who have carried his influence into their own musical careers. He passed away on November 8, 2001.

    Nick and Mark Azzolina
    Nick (left) and Mark (right) Azzolina


    A founding staff member of the KIDS, Tom’s professional staging, energetic choreography, and exciting dance routines created a signature KIDS look our audiences came to expect year after year.

    With a professional dance career that was launched at 16, Tom enjoyed a dynamic performing career, operated several dance studios, and has directed or choreographed countless shows throughout the region. A brief review of his directing and choreography credits over the last 50 years include The Johnson Wax show choir in Racine, the Allen Bradley Show choir in Milwaukee, The Wisconsin Singers, ABC-TV’s “American Swing Around,” The New College Singers, Carroll College, the University of Kentucky, various UW extensions, Ripon College and Notre Dame. He has worked at dozens of high schools, including Mayville, Kenosha Tremper, Sauk Prairie, Sun Prairie, Edgewood, and Rock Island and Rock Ridge High Schools in the Quad Cities area. He once estimated that he has directed or choreographed over 300 high school musicals! For 18 years he directed all the musicals at MATC (Madison) and headed their dance department. He also directed and choreographed the “Fab 50’s” show at Chula Vista in Wisconsin Dells.

    But it was in 1969 that our favorite credit was added to his resume with a phone call from KIDS founder, Mark Azzolina, inviting Tom to be the choreographer for the inaugural troupe of the Kids from Wisconsin. And the rest is history!

    Tom’s creativity and commitment to the highest standards of excellence for over four decades have set apart the KIDS program as one of the most visually exciting and energetic live shows around. With a remarkable knack both for developing untrained dancers as well as transforming skilled dancers into polished performers, Tom’s extraordinary legacy is found in the many KIDS alumni who are enjoying professional careers as dancers, choreographers, and directors. Our KIDS proudly wear their “I Survived Dance Rehearsal with Tom Terrien” t-shirts, a testimony to the sense of accomplishment he has provided to hundreds.

    Tom was honored after the 2010 season for his 42 years of outstanding service and devotion to the Kids from Wisconsin, and given the title of Choreographer Emeritus.

    Tom continues to maintain an active schedule as a clinician, choreographer and adjudicator.

    Choral Director

    A member of the original staff, Kurt Chalgren served in several capacities during his association with the Kids from Wisconsin, from 1969 through the 2004 season. He was tour director, announcer, assistant conductor, associate director and choral director. He and his wife, Barbara, toured with the KIDS for several years.

    Kurt earned a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Northern Iowa and a Master of Music degree from Illinois State University. He was a choral director at Iowa Central Community College and music director at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Davenport Iowa, but spent the greater part of his career as choral director at Tremper High School in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He also directed the Wisconsin Singers at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, the First Methodist Church Choir in Kenosha, Johnson Wax Chorus, the Kenosha Summer Civic Youth Chorus and the Fab Fifties show at Chula Vista in Wisconsin Dells. Under his leadership, the Tremper choirs performed at many state and national conventions and presented numerous workshops, clinics and music camps. The school's Madrigal Feast was well known and sold out every year.

    Kurt’s professional affiliations have included the American Choral Directors Association, North Central Choral Directors Association, Wisconsin Choral Directors Association, Music Educators National Conference, Wisconsin Music Educators Association, National Educator Association, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia and Phi Sigma Epsilon. Among his honors are the Elks Club Americanism Award, Outstanding Young Americans Award, Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers, Who’s Who in American Education and a mayoral proclamation of “Kurt Chalgren Day” in Kenosha.

    Although he is retired from teaching, Kurt still is involved as an adjudicator and clinician. He and his wife, Barbara, reside in Kenosha.

    Producer, 1996-2016

    Mark Dorn (Producer, 1996-2016) brought experience, creativity, and vision to the KIDS from Wisconsin program. A member of the KIDS band in the 70's, he combined his professional performance experience with over 30 years as a music educator to lead the KIDS program, providing a rewarding experience for each "KID" and producing fresh and exciting shows for our audiences.

    Mr. Dorn is a full professor of music at Colorado Christian University where he coordinates the instrumental music program, conducts the Wind Ensemble, directs the Jazz Band, teaches trumpet and conducting, and is involved in the mentoring of undergraduate students. In his touring with CCU ensembles, he has presented concerts in over 60 cities across the United States and Mexico. He is active as a freelance trumpet artist and as a jazz and symphonic band clinician, directing various honor bands. Mr. Dorn is regularly recognized as an exemplary member of the CCU faculty, was named Faculty Member of the Year in 2003, and received the Faculty Teaching Excellence Award in 2010, a faculty-nominated honor. Mr. Dorn holds memberships in the National Association for Music Education, the Colorado Bandsman Association, the Collegiate Band Directors National Association, the International Trumpet Guild, and the Jazz Education Network. He holds masters degrees in trumpet performance and in counseling.

    Mr. Dorn has four grown children and four grandchildren, and is married to his wife Jill. He lives in the Denver and enjoys hiking, backpacking, and camping in the Rocky Mountains.