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History

In their 50th season, the Kids From Wisconsin will have performed for approximately 10 million across Wisconsin and the Midwest, with great entertainment by some of Wisconsin's most talented performers ages 15-20.

The revue is produced in collaboration with some of the best writers, arrangers, and choreographers across the country.

About Kids From Wisconsin:

The establishment of the group was authorized in 1968 by Douglas G. Weiford, (1968 Secretary of the Department of Local Affairs and Development), in keeping with Governor Warren P. Knowles’ “Youth Power Program”. The Wisconsin Exposition Center Music director, Mark S. Azzolina, was appointed by Vernon G. Wendland, (Administrator of the Wisconsin Exposition Center) as the special project official.

Since their organization in 1968 and first performance in 1969, the Kids from Wisconsin show troupe has performed at state and county fairs, festivals, national trade shows and conventions. Their travels have taken them to many hometown stages as well as distinguished stages such as the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., the Performing Arts Center in Milwaukee, Cabo Hall in Detroit, the Convention Center in Atlantic City, and the Canadian National Exhibition, which at the time was the world’s largest fair.

In the earlier days before artists hired their own opening acts, The KIDS performed before the big-name artists. These included Dianna Ross and The Supremes, Guy Lombardo, Eddie Albert, James Darren, Liberace, Friends of Distinction, George Kirby, Pat Boone, Roger Miller (King of the Road), Sonny and Cher, Johnny Cash, John Davidson and many more.

Pictured left to right: Tom Terrien - Chorographer, Nick Azzolina (Nichols) - Chief Orchestrator/Camp Director/Tour Director, Mark Azzolina - Producer, Kurt Chalgren - Choral Director

Still today, the program remains a true professional experience and opportunity for growth both in leadership and as performers. It is a privilege and honor for students to take part in the Kids iconic program after an intense, audition process. Troupe members not only perform to thousands over the summer, but are also trained to provide a hands-on, performing arts workshops in many of the communities they perform, helping to spread the love of performing to youth ages 7-13.

Since 1969, there have been nearly 1000 alumni that have been part of Kids. 

Founder and Producer 1969-1996

Colonel, Mark Azzolina

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 Kids From Wisconsin.

In 1982, Kids From Wisconsin, Ltd. became an independent, non-profit corporation. A board of directors was formed. Governor Knowles became a member and the first Vice Chairman of Kids From Wisconsin Board. 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.

Since then nearly 900 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.

Kids From Wisconsin, to this day, maintain a large presence at the Wisconsin State Fair with performances twice daily on a main stage.

Producer 1996-2016

Mark Dorn

Mark Dorn is professor of music at Colorado Christian University, where he serves as coordinator of instrumental music, conducts the Symphonic Band, directs the Mainstream jazz ensemble, performs regularly on trumpet, and teaches conducting, applied trumpet, jazz improvisation, and senior thesis.

He is an active free lance trumpet artist and clinician, and served for 21 summers as producer of the acclaimed show troupe, the “Kids From Wisconsin.”  He holds a Masters degree in Trumpet Performance and the Bachelors in Music Education from Indiana University, as well as a Masters in Counseling from Colorado Christian University. 

A Grand Finale and a New Chapter

2016 was a most unusual summer for me as it marked my 21st – and final – season as Kids Producer.  So much of performing relies on good timing, and it was my sense that this was the time to make the transition to some new chapters with my professional life as a college professor, as well as my personal and family life in Colorado.  Like all performers, I hoped for a grand finale, and thanks to the talented and dedicated members of the 2016 troupe, our fine staff, and terrific leadership by Tina Weiss and our board of directors, I was given a wonderful and honoring final summer. 

During my time as producer, I’ve had the privilege of helping to train nearly 400 of the finest young people on the planet, many of whom who have gone on to lead incredible lives in every imaginable vocation, making a difference in our world.  I have enjoyed a unique vantage point of watching this unfold over two decades – it’s been like tending a greenhouse for developing the very finest young artists and leaders around!  The Kids mission has never been more important, vibrant, or relevant than it is right now, nearly half a century after this amazing project was launched.

At our final performance of the summer at Monona Grove High School, it was my pleasure to pass the baton to my successor, longtime Kids staff member Taras Nahirniak.  Taras has served in several capacities during his 27 summers with us, most recently as our choral director and chief orchestrator.  Most importantly, Taras has been my musical right hand the last 20 years, and brings a deep and lasting commitment to the Kids vision, not to mention some of the most talented artistic leadership I’ve ever seen.  We are in good hands!

I want to sincerely thank the members of the Kids staff, board of directors, loyal audience members, parents, and especially those Kids troupe members who have made the last 21 years such an incredible, life-changing, rewarding, and important time in my life.  God bless you all. 

 

It’s been a ball!

 

Mark Dorn

Kids From Wisconsin Producer (1996-2016)

Pictured left to right: Mark Dorn in 2016, passing the baton to current Producer, Tara Nahirniak.