A little over a year ago, Kyle Lange had never played a guitar. Consider him a fast study. He will represent the Fennimore FFA as he showcases his talent at the 85th National FFA Convention and Expo next week.
More than 50 acts from across the country were chosen to perform during convention and expo sessions, meal functions and receptions at the Indiana Convention Center, Bankers Life Fieldhouse and Lucas Oil Stadium.
“Kyle is one of four from Wisconsin that made it on to nationals in talent,” Fennimore FFA Advisor Shelby Mitchell said. “It is very impressive, especially since this is his first year that all this is happening.”
Lange’s journey to nationals began with a performance at the 83rd Annual Wisconsin State FFA Convention in June.
“My first state convention performance, people clapped and were screaming and stuff, so I was feeling really good,” he said. “The main stage performances were selected and I wasn’t chosen, so I thought I blew it.”
Mitchell explained when the judges compiled a list of performers to take the stage the following day, a list, which included Kyle, was misplaced.
“Had the judges not lost that list, I think he would have performed on the main stage at the state convention,” Mitchell said.
“They told me the next day, ‘hey, get your guitar and go,’” Lange said. “I performed again and that is when they give you your results in a big envelope.
“In my results it said ‘national talent nomination’ and I got goosebumps everywhere and I was freaking out. Just the fact I made it, I am stoked.”
After receiving the nomination, Lange submitted an application along with a recorded audition and was selected based on criteria evaluating quality of performance, stage presence, spirit and ability to relate to the FFA theme.
“I was surprised when I learned he was selected, but I think I was more dumbfounded only because it is his first year,” Mitchell said. “Usually the students selected to perform at the National FFA Convention have been performing for several years.”
Lange will perform 10 selections (four with guitar, six without) at designated locations throughout the convention area, which includes the homes of the Indianapolis Pacers and the Indianapolis Colts.
“The talent scouts are out there and record companies are out there,” Mitchell said. “Everybody knows who FFA is and when you get to that caliber that you are at nationals, the scouts know they are good.”
Lange will depart for Indianapolis on Sunday, Oct. 21. He will take part in secondary auditions on Monday. Eight of his classmates and Mitchell will join him on Wednesday, Oct. 24.
The National FFA Organization is a national youth organization of 540,379 student members as part of 7,489 local FFA chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The FFA mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.
Lange began singing at a young age. He sang while a student at Potosi and continued singing when he enrolled at Fennimore Middle/High School.
“When it comes to singing, my passion for music comes from my grandma because when I was little she would always sing to me,” he said. “She sang at weddings and stuff like that, so I think she started my ‘music thing.’
“As I grew up it was more of me trying to find a way to vent. When I pick up a guitar now when I’m stressed and I start playing and singing, and when I’m done I’m relaxed.”
Lange said his mom at first thought his aspirations to play guitar were “a phase,” but his persistence paid off in the form of a guitar.
“I got on Youtube and taught myself how to read tabs,” Lange said. “That is how I’ve learned it.”
Lange practices almost nightly, but often times he does not get home until 8:30 p.m. With his supper in front of him and a guitar on his lap, he goes to work.
“It is absolutely amazing what he has done in one year with a guitar,” Mitchell said.
When not signing, you might find Lange on the football field or on the stage rocking with the “Mean Machine.”
“He is very good at time management and knowing what he is doing at one time,” Mitchell said. “He has to be, he can juggle it all.”
A senior at Fennimore Middle/High School, Lange hopes to attend Luther College to study music.
“I remember when I was little, we had to do this thing about what we want to be when you are older,” Lange recalled. “I put a singer. Everybody said, ‘you are just a kid with a dream.’
“Now I am 17 and I still want to be a singer. I’m always singing, you can ask anybody. I am signing in the hallway, I am singing in the choir, I just sit here and sing.”