On Friday, Dec. 3, KO will welcome to the stage various prominent and esteemed musicians to perform in honor of the 50th Anniversary of Roberts Theater. The lineup includes bassist Nat Reeves, guitarist and vocalist Jake Kulak, local dancer Savana Jones, and Tony Award nominee singer Kate Baldwin. Accompanying these performers will be KO faculty and students who participate in vocal or instrumental groups.
Jake, who graduated from KO in 2018, began playing the piano at only five years old, and later picked up the guitar. “During piano lessons, I was always very dissociated from [creating music] in the sense of I wasn’t playing piano and thinking, ‘okay, I’m going to be making music later.’ It was just doing piano as it is,” Jake said.
Listening to music has always been a source of inspiration for Jake. “I listened to Ball and Biscuit by the White Stripes and it has a very extended electric guitar,” he said. “I’ve listened to that song over and over again, just because I liked the guitar solo so much. At that time, I wasn’t thinking, ‘I want to play guitar.’ It was more so I just love that song.”
During his first few years of high school, Jake was already playing at live venues, from small crowds to the Notodden Blues Festival in Norway. At this time, began looking for students his age with whom he could form a band. The Jake Kulak Band, which is currently composed of AJ Lippo, Jeremy Peck, and Jake, began releasing blues songs. “We started out as a very traditional blues power trio, guitar, bass and drums,” he said.
Jake has been successful in growing his band from the ground up and has been recognized with multiple awards and prizes throughout his career. He has won $10,000 in the 2019 Foxwoods Resort Casino Battle of the Bands and been named the Best Blues Band or Singer in the 2019 Best of Hartford Readers’ Poll. “The most rewarding experience is getting called out by other more successful people. It feels good to be recognized by people that have already made it,” he said.
In the future, Jake hopes to be able to create a self-sustaining personal business. “When you first start out versus where you end up, your vision of what success is changes very drastically,” he said. Finally, he noted that he has had immense support from his family and the musical community of New England. As he grows as a musician, his main goal is not comparison and competition, but the ability to grow and become better.
As he looks forward to the concert, Jake reflects on the positive impact KO had on his musical career. “One of the most important times in musical development was at KO, and that was when I was forming the current band that I’m in,” he said. “I had a lot of teachers like Mr. Levine who were very supportive. It just makes me very happy to go back. It feels like home.”