When Bishop Seabury seventh grader Kostas Jackson was 4 years old, his parents found an “American Idol” children’s drum set in their neighborhood trash.
Since then, his life has been marked by snares, kicks, and cymbals.
After two years of what his parents described as “crazy” playing, they decided to upgrade. Kostas’ parents, Jeff and Anna Jackson, bought him his first real drum set at age 6.
Though many 6-year-olds might have been elated with the simple joy of getting to make loud noises absent of any structure, Kostas had other goals.
“Jeff started to show him how to play and Kostas just started playing,” Anna said. “Not just hitting the drums, actually playing a beat somewhat with little to no instruction. He has taken lessons ever since.”
Kostas, now 12 years old and a seventh grader at Bishop Seabury Academy, recently participated in the Lawrence Art Center’s production of “School of Rock,” where he was able to flex his skills on the drum set playing the role of Freddie.
He’s also attended River City Rock Camp, a Lawrence rock and roll camp, where he formed the band Bear Feet with some friends.
“In the last two years, he has grown a lot. I have noticed that he has become a very good listener when it comes to playing with other musicians,” Jeff said. “Sometimes musicians don’t get good at that until they are in their 20s, in my opinion.”
But Kostas’ music training started long before music camps and big stages, with him and his dad, who plays guitar, jamming together.
When asked what his favorite performance was, Kostas didn’t start by talking about his time on stage or at camp; rather, he reflected on his performance in the second grade talent show, where he played songs that he wrote with his dad.
“The most influential person to me is my dad,” Kostas said. “He has always supported me and we have an awesome time playing music together.”
Luke Helker, who teaches instrumental music at Bishop Seabury, marveled at Kostas’ technical skills, highlighting his fluency in using a wide range of dynamics and maintaining a steady pulse. But Helker also commented on Kostas’ mindset, one that shows his maturity and commitment to growth by trying new things.
Helker said that he works with tons of highly skilled musicians, but Kosatas stands out for how far his skills outpace his age.
“His enthusiasm is infectious and always inspires and motivates his peers,” Helker said. “… I hope he never stops performing as he continues to navigate his life.”
When he isn’t drumming, Kostas said he loves basketball, soccer and General Tso’s chicken.
As he moves forward, his parents and teachers say their number one goal is for him to keep playing music, in whatever form it takes.
“I am excited to see him grow as a drummer and play in bands around town,” Anna said. “I also think it would be super cool if he played in a band with his dad someday. Most importantly, we would like for him to enjoy playing music throughout his life in any way.”
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Cuyler Dunn (he/him), a contributor to The Lawrence Times, is a student at the University of Kansas School of Journalism. He is a graduate of Lawrence High School where he was the editor-in-chief of the school’s newspaper, The Budget, and was named the 2022 Kansas High School Journalist of the Year. Read more of his work for the Times here.