LAKEVIEW — Jesse Kent first rosined a bow and set it to fiddle strings when he was only seven years old. From the moment he coaxed that elusive, squawking first note from his violin, Jesse knew what it was he wanted to do with his life.
Now a ninth-grade student at Lakeview High School, Coral resident Jesse continues to make the fiddle the focal point of his life. He performs with local band Bluegrass Echoes, does occasional solo performances or duets with his mother, mandolin player Kristin Kent, and is a frequent performer with Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp’s International Youth Symphony Orchestra.
It is his work with Blue Lake that will next summer take Jesse on a tour of Europe; a dream come true, but a dream with a relatively high price tag.
“The only thing standing between him and the experience of a lifetime is about $6,800,” Kristin Kent said. “So he will be doing some intense fundraising and performing throughout the next several months.”
Jesse is no stranger to fundraising campaigns. For the past several months, he has been running an open microphone music jam at Settlement Lutheran Church, where he is a confirmation student. So far, his “Raise the Roof” effort has brought in over $5,000 toward the purchase of a new roof for the church.
Jesse is hoping his enthusiasm and hard work will help create similar funding success for his upcoming trip to Europe. Just getting to the point where the trip was a possibility has been an uphill battle, however. According to Jesse, his showing during auditions for the trip was not exactly stellar.
“I auditioned for the international program and completely bombed the audition,” Jesse said. “I just froze up. It was the first time I could remember being nervous in front of an audience.”
When the letter from Blue Lake came explaining that he had not made the cut, Jesse was not surprised. However, when another student dropped out, Jesse discovered he was back in the running, assuming he could come up with the funding.
Since then, he’s been pulling out all the stops in an effort to earn as much money as possible in the few months remaining to him before the trip. Jesse is using all the usual “kid stuff” fundraising techniques; garage sales, candy sales and so on.
But thanks to his particular talents, he also has the option of hosting benefit concerts, like the one coming up March 16 at the American Legion Hall in Morley (time TBA). Another show has been scheduled for April 28 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Howmet Theater in Whitehall. At that show he will appear with West Shore Symphony Orchestra member Natalie Hockamier, Jesse’s classical violin instructor.
Both events will feature raffles and possibly food sales.
“We’re still working out the details,” said Kristin.
Jesse said he hopes the jaunt through Europe will be just another step in a lifetime devoted to music. He plans to always perform, but also hopes to one day work as a music teacher.
“I’m serious about the music,” Jesse said. “It’s become part of who I am, pretty much. I’ll be in Europe for a little over a month. I’m hoping to see some sights and not fail too miserably at the musical performances.”
Considering how far he’s come in such a short time, Kristin said, a poor performance probably isn’t anything Jesse really has to worry about. Still, Jesse doesn’t allow himself to rest on his laurels.
For his part, Jesse, especially for a musician of his age and experience, seems to have a fairly good grasp of the realities of the music business.
“It takes a special kind of crazy to pluck the strings for hardly any money,” Jesse said.
A fundraising account has been set up at www.youcaring.com for those interested in helping make Jesse’s dream a reality.