GUERNSEY—Choose just about any era or genre of music and you can likely find siblings who excelled either instrumentally or vocally. It happens more often than you may think. And although they haven’t hit the benchmark for fame and fortune yet, they’ve accomplished much more than most their age.
Dacotah and Coleton Morgan are musicians extraordinaire, considering their ages. Living in a rural area between Guernsey and Hartville, Wyoming, their accomplishments are remarkable for many reasons, but especially due to the extra efforts that have been made for and by them to access the resources it takes to achieve what they have.
Both boys have a solid education provided by their parents through homeschooling and you’ll likely not find two more young men that have been exposed to as much in their overall education as Dacotah and Coleton have. But despite all their interests, for both, music seems to be their first and foremost love.
It is evident by measure of accomplishment and the way they speak about their goals and dreams. The commitments made to attend regular lessons for both is astounding. Along with their parents, they have been on the road thousands of miles over the past 10 years to study and learn to play.
Having just graduated from high school, Dacotah has been playing the viola since he was nine years old and though it has been his primary instrument, it is not the only instrument he plays. Saying it is the diversity that drives him, he is proficient with percussion instruments, guitar, violin, clarinet, and saxophone.
His viola lessons have taken him to Torrington, Cheyenne, Laramie and studied with Gary DePaolo at Casper College. He continues to take drum, guitar and voice lessons at Vibes, also in Casper.
In addition to playing in the Wheatland Jazz Band, Concert Band and Marching Band, homeschooling has also allowed him the opportunity to play with area high schools in Guernsey, Lingle and Glenrock.
Dacotah has the distinction of making the Wyoming All-State Orchestra in all four of his high school years. The auditions required are significant; he estimated his rehearsal time for the audition at 130 hours, noting that it is the music and the music only that is the basis of the judging.
He has also played with the Casper College Chamber Orchestra.
Now Dacotah is set to embark on a new adventure, one that will have a huge impact on his music career. His interest in music production and the music business coupled with the talent and skills he has already demonstrated led him to a unique opportunity. This past spring he was notified he had landed a spot in a highly selective program—the Detroit Institute of Music Education or DIME for short. The program was founded and began in Detroit, Michigan but has established other campuses across the country, the most recent in Denver, where Dacotah will attend. Partnered with Metro State University-Denver, the DIME program gives serious musicians a custom built education to pursue a career in today’s music industry. Their courses are designed to build strong musical foundations with a unique approach that allows students to learn the business from current industry professionals and maximize their musical ability. These are degreed programs that deal with the entire gamut of the music industry to allow graduates the ability to succeed long-term in their chosen area of the music business. In a highly competitive field, the DIME program gives their students access to connections in the music community. It is one of the top-rated music programs listed by Billboard Magazine.
Potential students must provide a biography and portfolio of their musical work, attend a 30-minute interview with faculty, perform voice, guitar or percussion and provide a sample of work. In Dacotah’s case, he and Coleton played and recorded music on different instruments and mixed it.
A sampling of the classes Dacotah will be taking over several semesters include Repertoire and Hit Song Analysis, Domestic Music Market, Essential Music Theory Skills, Public Speaking, Artist Discovery, Composing Arguments, Self-Employment Skills in Music, Establishing an Artist, Tour Management, and Record Label Operations. There are also math, history, and even nutrition classes but they are taught as they apply to the musician and the music business.
It is a huge step forward that Dacotah will no doubt make the most of because he already realizes what it can do for his future.
For Coleton, music is also taking him to places he never could have imagined when he began his music pursuits. After learning to play the recorder, Irish whistle and Native American flute, and with mom’s encouragement, Coleton began learning the oboe. The oboe is a reed instrument with a very distinctive sound. An quality oboe player can be in high demand because it isn’t as commonly chosen, particularly for younger players. But based on results, Coleton couldn’t have made a better choice.
At 17 and entering his senior year of schooling, Coleton was one of just three oboist chosen to participate in this year’s National Youth Orchestra 2 in New York City. Between July 10 and 31, Coleton is attending three weeks of all-expenses paid musical instruction at Purchase College with some of the highest skilled professional teachers available. The musicians stay at the Wellington Hotel and their clothing for the performances is custom made for each. He will have the opportunity to do a private lesson with an oboe teacher who plays with the New York Philharmonic. The group will spend part of that time in Miami Beach in Florida to play with the New World Symphony and return to New York for a final performance in Carnegie Hall on July 30, a true honor in any musician’s world. To demonstrate just how selective this group is, this year marked his third round of auditions for the group before he was chosen. The audition consisted of learning and playing assigned selections as well as a solo performance of music of his own choice. He also had to submit a written biography and a video essay. His essay question dealt with telling about his most memorable musical experience, which Coleton deemed his selection to the All Northwest Orchestra in both his freshman and junior years. The culminating concert was played at Benaroya Hall, the same venue used regularly by the Seattle Symphony. As he also is proficient with the English Horn, Coleton auditioned with both instruments.
An oboe is an expensive instrument because so much of it must be hand-made. They can run anywhere between $2,500 to $15,000 when custom made for certain players by a specific maker. The English Horn carries a price tag that averages around $9,500.
But beyond his musical talent, Coleton has mastered a skill that is vitally important to a good oboe player and one that not all can achieve. A reed instrument, one of the most critical components is the reed, which is the mouthpiece that gives the oboe its quality in tone. Oboe reeds are made from a very specific type of reed wood called Arundo Donax that is naturally harvested in France, Spain and Asia. In the United States, it is grown in North Carolina.
Each reed is hand-made, an art unto itself and Coleton has become a very skilled reed maker. It takes very specific equipment and requires high precision work. The slightest variance in a cut or a bend can make a reed unusable and they are highly susceptible to change caused by altitude and moisture. For a musician that travels between areas of different altitudes and climates, it is a challenge to have enough reeds that will play well. For Coleton, it was almost a natural progression as he has always been interested in handwork, teaching himself to knit, tat, tie fishing flies and other related hobbies.
Coleton is an accomplished musician and hopes to make it his life’s work as well. His dream would be to attend one of the top performing arts colleges such as Juilliard. The competition is fierce but Coleton already has some checks on his list that could have an impact on his acceptance. His participation in NY02 this summer is one of those. In his senior year, he will be eligible to audition one more time for NYO, the version for older students of the program he is currently attending.
This will be a memorable summer for both Coleton and Dacotah. Their foundation is solid and they are both determined to be their best.
And even though their paths are a bit different, could it be that they will be Wyoming’s contribution to this generation of musically-gifted siblings?
Only time will tell, but although the Morgan boys come from simple beginnings and a family as down to earth as you will ever meet, the opportunities they have created with their talent and hard work will play on for many years to come.