All that jazz: Voice is the instrument of this UW-Stevens Point graduate

Lexie Lakmann, a music major from La Crosse, graduates Dec. 11 from UW-Stevens Point. Here, she
performs in a contemporary opera staged by the UWSP College of Fine Arts and Communication.

It's not surprising that Lexie Lakmann chose a career in music. Her parents are music teachers in La Crosse. At age 14, she began singing and playing cello at weddings with her mom, who sings and plays piano.

As she explored college, her dad, a trombone player and band director, suggested the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. She toured, loved the Noel Fine Arts Center and recalled going to a French horn fest there in middle school. "I loved the facility, I loved the faculty right off the bat," she said. A scholarship as an incoming music major sealed it.

In her first year, Lakmann performed in the opera "Speed Dating Tonight!" At the end of that year, Music Professor Mathew Markham asked if she would be interested in a new program being considered: Adding vocalists to the jazz program.

"He knew I was interested in singing musical theater and alternate styles other than classical. That sounded super fun," Lakmann said. She auditioned, was accepted and began classes in jazz studies. "I just loved it."

On Dec. 11, Lakmann will be only the second music major to graduate with voice as her instrument in the jazz studies program.

"Jazz has given me so many opportunities as a vocalist and a bandleader to get the same quality education as the other instrumentalists are getting with all the theory and things vocalists don't tend to focus on as much. It also gave me opportunities to work with the Jazz Ensemble and different jazz combos and at this point, gig with some of my professors."

She's performed with and learned from many, notably Matt Buchman, director of jazz studies at UW-Stevens Point, who is a master at tailoring education to individual students, Lakmann said.

"I love working with him because he will hold you accountable. His standards are high so you want to show you are going to put in the work for the degree. He's an awesome resource, a very smart man and amazing musician."

Lakmann has played with the Buchman-Robinson quintet and the Wisconsin Jazz Orchestra at the Riverfront Jazz Festival as well as numerous venues around the state.

"Lexie is mature beyond her years as a musician and as a person," Buchman said. "That comes through in her stage presence, and her ability to connect with collaborating musicians and her audience."

Doing the same work as instrumentalists in jazz studies, learning a broad repertoire and learning how to improvise are important, Lakmann said. "With jazz, you've got one piece of paper, here's the whole song, and you're going to make it last seven minutes long because you're going make your own arrangement. As a vocalist, learning how to scat is a huge part."

She was recognized for outstanding performance in the vocal jazz soloist category of Downbeat Magazine's student music awards in April 2020, where UW-Stevens Point's first vocal jazz graduate, Faith Hatch, was also recognized. Both studied with Professor Tim Buchholz of UW-Stevens Point at Wausau.

Working in both the jazz area and in the classical voice studio at UW-Stevens Point created a well-rounded vocal education, said Lakmann, who enjoys performing a variety of genres. All of her professors have been supportive and helpful. She is student teaching in Winneconne schools and will be certified to teach choral music for grades 6-12.

But first, she's going to continue collaborating, performing and arranging music.

"Lexie's development was a bit like watching a locomotive: At first, the wheels slipped a bit on the track, and progress was slow despite great effort. As time went on, with unwavering determination and hard work, she picked up speed," Buchman said. "At this point, she's like the musical version of the Polar Express. There's nothing that can stop her!"

Article Tags

Admissions; COFAC; Vibrant; Prosperous; Wausau