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Photo submitted J’Kobe Wallace, a graduate of Minot State University, plays Sesame Street LIVE!

NEW YORK CITY — We saw it at Ann Nicole Nelson Hall. We saw it in the Burning Hills Amphitheater in Medora. Today, J’Kobe Wallace, a 2019 graduate of Minot State University, is on Sesame Street, where he can do the two things he loves most: acting and teaching.

Wallace recently performed in New York with Sesame Street LIVE!, an interactive children’s educational show on one of the world’s most famous streets. Later the same day, he taught a virtual session of voice and piano lessons from his hotel room in New Brunswick, New Jersey, the next location for Sesame Street’s nationwide tour.

Such a combination of performing and teaching is nothing new for Wallace, as he has done both since his time in the music education program at Minot State.

“I played Minot Summer Theater a lot when I was in high school, and I remember really enjoying it and meeting a lot of music teachers through it,” he said. “I decided to stay at Minot to get my degree, and I’m glad I did because I got to work with these teachers, and there was a certain sense of continuity with the things I was learning. and what I was already doing in the community and what I have to do in my undergraduate too.

Regulars at live musical and theatrical events while Wallace was at Minot State have certainly seen him perform. He has performed in a concert band, sung in a concert choir and other small vocal ensembles, performed with Campus Players, and performed in several productions with the Western Plains Opera Company.

He has also been an advocate for education in many roles, such as President of the MSU Chapter of the National Association for Music Education, Member of the Music Student Advisory Council, Student Conductor for the Western Plains Children’s Choir, Auditory Skills Teaching Assistant. and a cheerleading coach for Minot High School.

“I was doing a lot at Minot State, and I often went to do theater outside of North Dakota because there were paid opportunities elsewhere,” he said. “It was fun to learn and explore and then I would come back to school and apply the things I learned outside of my time in North Dakota in my own degree or in operas and things like that.

“When I graduated in December 2019, I had teaching offers, but for me, personally, I knew I loved teaching so much, and I still do – I teach virtually – but I also loves to act, and I really wanted to find a way to marry these two loves. Since graduating, I have luckily managed to find a way to integrate concert work and theatrical art into my career. “

Success is right. The first opportunity Wallace won was a black history tour with the Bright Star Touring Theater based in Asheville, North Carolina. While on the road, he auditioned for the Medora Musical and performed there during the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

“I spent the whole summer in Medora, which was really cool for a North Dakotan, to be part of one of the biggest scenes in North Dakota,” he said. “We’re a cast and we all live in the same neighborhood in Medora, so we got really close, which is really important when you’re doing over a hundred shows in over a hundred degree weather.

“One thing I realized when I moved to New York was how much I missed nature and the stars. My favorite part of being there was after the show, walking down the hill , still sweaty and disgusting, then I looked up from my cabin and saw the real Milky Way, like the whole galaxy. It’s amazing. You can’t do that everywhere.

Having moved to North Dakota in 2012 and spent much of his young adult life in Minot, Wallace was particularly proud of his role in the musical.

“They feature every singer from Burning Hill and where they’re from, and there’s people from, you know, Tennessee and all these other states, but when they say, ‘I’ Kobe Wallace from Minot, Dakota du Nord’, the audience is going crazy, which makes me feel super special,” he said.

In January 2021, after his first season in Medora and his first tour with the Medora Christmas Show, Wallace moved to New York City, where he is based today. Between his first and second seasons with the musical, Wallace also performed alongside Broadway performers at Feinstein’s/54 Below, also known as Broadway’s Supper Club in New York City. Around this time, he began working as a virtual voice and piano teacher for the Rogers School of Music, based in Rogers, Minnesota.

As the end of his second musical season approached, Wallace began looking for the next step in his career. Excited to resume the audition process, he booked several auditions. Sesame Street was his last.

“Before I left for the Medora Christmas tour, I was like, ‘Oh, this could be fun. I don’t really know what Sesame Street LIVE! East. I heard of Sesame Street. Everyone has heard of Sesame Street, but I really don’t know what it is. So really for me it was a learning opportunity,” he said.

After passing the initial audition, callback, and dance call, Wallace received the news.

“I got out of the subway and got this voicemail – the service there is terrible – and it said I had the job and I had to be on the road with Sesame Street, so it was like a happy accident”, said Wallace. “I take every audition seriously, but this was one where I was like, ‘Don’t get your hopes up. It could be fun. It could be cute.

Touring with Sesame Street as one of the show’s two singers and hosts gives Wallace the opportunity to pursue both of his passions at the same time.

“We ask everyone to dance, clap, jump, wiggle like a bird, and at some point the snow falls and Abby Cadabby flies,” he said. “Hearing all these kids and adults reacting and having a bit of magic in their lives, it’s really cool.

“I’m a big believer in energy. In college, for example, whenever we did performance labs or when I had my senior recital, what would help me perform better is knowing that there are people in the audience who were excited and there for a reason. Especially after the past two years, we have definitely seen the importance of live theater. When you can’t go, you find a little hole in your life.” he said. “Now there’s a whole generation of kids who were born before they could see a live performance. I see kids who aren’t old enough to know what it’s like to see theatre, ever.

Some of the lessons Wallace learns on stage are particularly close to home.

“Being one of the two people tasked with defending all of this information is really exciting because seeing me, a black boy, on stage singing and dancing and working with all these lovely characters, it’s absolutely important.” he said. “I love watching the audience and seeing other little black kids dancing and singing with them. I know if I had seen this as a kid during a live theater production, it would have totally inspired me sooner to join the arts.

Medora and Sesame Street are just the beginning of Wallace’s career in entertainment and education. This summer, he plans to return to a community closer to Minot State — International Music Camp (IMC) run by members of the Minot Symphony Orchestra — for another opportunity.

“I just got a message a few weeks ago from my friends at IMC, and they asked me to be a musical theater teacher this summer,” he said. “So at some point I can go there and be an educator at IMC, which is super cool because in high school I never got to go.”

Before that, Wallace will be touring the country with Sesame Street LIVE! until early May.

“I am so grateful to have this job. I am very lucky that they entrust me with this task”, he said.

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