Teen musician to study at acclaimed music college

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PARKVILLE, Mo.  -- Things are getting very busy this summer for the Fox 4 Reaching 4 Excellence Young Achiever of the Week. Jacob Johnson is a member of the School of Rock Allstars, gifted performers from School of Rock locations in the U.S. and abroad.

They'll perform at large concerts and do workshops in Chicago later this month and in early August. And then Jacob heads to Boston to start studying at one of America's most acclaimed music schools -- Berklee College of Music.

"When I was first starting out," said Fox 4 Young Achiever Jacob Johnson, "I was just, I didn't really have any, a very high self-esteem or confidence about playing music. I was like, 'Oh, no! I'm never going to be good at this.'"

But good he became -- very, very good. Jacob is a guitar wizard. Wailing away in a rehearsal with Professor Salty and the Wallet, one of two rock bands he's formed, Jacob's playing is strikingly skillful and seemingly effortless. It's hard to imagine he ever doubted himself or struggled with technique.

"You have to just hunker down and practice and practice and practice," said Jacob. "Eventually you do start to get better at it. And once I started to hear the things I was doing, I was like, 'Wow! Did I do that?'"

Jacob's life of music really began to blossom about four years ago. That's about the time he made his way to School of Rock in Parkville to start guitar lessons.

"Really, it's just his dedication and his work ethic that's really gotten him to where he is in his playing skills," said School of Rock instructor David Rice.

Rice remembers Jacob taking up the challenge to improve himself and quickly advancing to School of Rock's top groups, like The House Band. He evolved into a versatile player of other instruments, too. And with a deep understanding and feel for the music, Jacob started arranging scores for ambitious School of Rock productions, including a recent show of music from Pink Floyd's The Wall in which Jacob worked up symphonic parts for horns.

"Any time we've asked him to do anything, he's really approached it with gusto and never second-guessed it," said Rice with admiration. It's been that way for Jacob in the elite music groups at Park Hill South High School in Riverside, Mo., too. Jacob plays trombone in them, the instrument that got him started in music back in the 7th grade.

"When we first started band," said Jacob remembering those days, "we would come to the high school band concerts and we would just sit there and be blown away by how talented these musicians were, just being high schoolers. But once you're there, you realize you haven't really even reached the top. You can just continue improving and growing. And that's something that's amazing as a musician."

But Jacob definitely is on his way to the top. Through a rigorous audition process, he's earned his way to one of America's renowned advanced music schools. He's been accepted to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston where many of the greats of rock music -- all kinds of music -- have studied -- some of them Jacob's guitar heroes.

"If I didn't feel this passionate about music," said Jacob, "I wouldn't have gone forth and put the effort into auditioning and things like that. But since it's the thing I feel that I'm best at and it's pretty much what I want to devote my life to, I figured I might as well try out for Berklee and see what happens. And the fact that I got accepted, it continues to blow my mind."

Jacob actually had a choice to make about where to study music. He also was accepted at Belmont University School of Music in Nashville and the very respected school of music at the University of Kansas. At Berklee, Jacob plans to dual major in guitar performance and music production. He says he'd certainly like to be a rock star one day but if that doesn't work out for some reason he'd be very happy working in a recording studio and becoming a producer of great music.

Fox 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Wednesday on Fox 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on Fox 4 News at 8 a.m. and noon.

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