Local drummer recording second CD — and he’s still in high school

Student of the week Jackson Hallquist talks about drumming

Jackson Hallquist, a senior at Edwardsville High School, wants to be a professional drummer and will study jazz performance at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
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Jackson Hallquist, a senior at Edwardsville High School, wants to be a professional drummer and will study jazz performance at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

After he graduates from Edwardsville High School later this month, Jackson Hallquist will finish recording his second CD.

The 18-year-old plays the drums in an instrumental band with his 13-year-old brother Jonah, who plays guitar. The band’s name is The Hallquist Brothers.

Jackson and Jonah recorded their first CD last year at Jupiter Studios in St. Louis. Their mom, Valerie Barber, said the boys’ time in the studio was actually a surprise.

“We pulled up in front of the studio, and we said, ‘Guess what boys? You’re making a record,’” Barber said.

That CD includes one original song and two covers. The name for their song, “MESA,” came from a brand they saw on an amplifier while they were recording. Metro-east residents might have heard it on the radio. “MESA” was played on the community radio station 88.1 KDHX back in February.

This Memorial Day, The Hallquist Brothers are heading back to the studio with more preparation to finish an EP, which is shorter than a traditional album with four or five songs.

Jackson hopes to continue recording music as a studio drummer in the future. He’d also be happy performing and traveling with one or more bands — as long as he’s a professional drummer.

“It’s the only thing I want to do,” Jackson said.

He got his first drum set for his 8th birthday and has been playing ever since. He’s performed locally at the downtown Edwardsville bar Stagger Inn Again, which has weekly open mic nights, and at churches like First Presbyterian Church in Edwardsville and Troy United Methodist Church.

Jackson says that when he’s playing, he’s not thinking about anything but the music.

“It’s really natural for someone to have butterflies right before the gig or the concert just because you don’t know what’s going to happen. But as soon as you hit that first note, then you’re at home. Then, you know what you’re doing. Then, it’s all good,” he said. “That’s when the zone happens.”

It’s the only thing I want to do.

Jackson Hallquist, Edwardsville High School student, on playing the drums

Jackson’s mom remembers him making plans to become a professional drummer at a young age.

“When he was in middle school, he just looked at me in the eye and said, ‘Mom, I just wanna play drums and get paid,’” Barber said.

Jackson has been interested in music since his dad, John Hallquist, introduced him to The Beatles music and movies like “A Hard Day’s Night.” The family has even traveled to Liverpool in England and visited the bar where The Beatles performed for the first time, Jackson said.

“That was a cool experience because it’s like, ‘I’m here in real life where The Beatles were.’ ... They were like my first idols,” he said.

Jackson started playing with his first band, called Victory Friday, when he was a student at Liberty Middle School. It was made up of members of the school’s jazz band. He’s also performed with the Edwardsville High School jazz band, winter drum line, choir and orchestra.

Last year, he auditioned for the Illinois Music Education Association all-state jazz band and was accepted, which he said had been his goal during high school.

“As a freshman, I looked up to the people in the band that were people from all-state,” Jackson said. “... According to those judges, I am the third best drum set player in the state that’s in high school.”

In the fall, Jackson will begin studying jazz performance at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, where he received two scholarships: the St. Louis Jazz Club Jean Kittrell Award and a music department talent award.

When he was in middle school, he just looked at me in the eye and said, ‘Mom, I just wanna play drums and get paid.’

Valerie Barber, on her son Jackson making plans

Q: Is anybody else in your family musical?

A: “My dad is mainly the music fan in the family. And my mom played percussion in the high school band and piano, but she doesn’t do music for a career. She is an optometrist. But the real musical person from my family, who is dead now, he was my dad’s dad: Grandpa Jack. He played the clarinet. He was a tenor in the church choir. He was really musically gifted. I, unfortunately, never got to meet him because he died right before I was born. ... I feel like Jonah (who plays guitar) and I probably got our talent from my dad’s dad.”

Q: Have you ever tried any other instruments? Did you try piano, maybe, since your mom has that background?

A: “I took piano lessons before I took drum lessons just because it’s a good thing for any kind of person that plays an instrument to understand the key signatures and chords. ... I didn’t like it that much. ... I was OK at it, but it wasn’t where my passion was. I preferred to play drums just because I thought it was cooler, and I thought it was easier because there wouldn’t be any notes or chords to deal with, but that’s not true. Drums are easy to learn but hard to master.”

Q: What do you like about performing?

A: “There’s a lot of things I like about it. I like it so much. When you play drums in front of people or just play drums, for me, anywhere, I get into a zone. ... It’s like I’m on a cloud, sort of, and I’m not focusing on anything else. Drums, for me, isn’t really work. It’s just being one with the music. When I’m performing on stage, that’s what I like about it: being one with the music and being one with what I’m doing and just trying to give it my all for the people that are watching me. I like it because I can work on a song or on a drum solo and then perform it in front of people and just completely pour my heart out into it and then have them give me applause and cheer. That gives me a bunch of gratitude because it makes me feel like I have succeeded.”

Lexi Cortes: 618-239-2528, @lexicortes

Meet Jackson Hallquist

  • Age: 18
  • School: Senior at Edwardsville High School
  • College plans: Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
  • Career plans: Professional drummer
  • Parents: Valerie Barber and John Hallquist
  • Sibling: Jonah, 13
  • School activities: Band program, winter drum line, jazz band and Tri-M Music Honor Society
  • Hobbies: Playing the drums
  • Role models: Parents and EHS band director Marvin Battle
  • Favorite subject in school: Band
  • Least favorite subject: English
  • Favorite music: Jazz
  • Favorite movie: “Whiplash”
  • Favorite food: Pepperoni pizza
  • Favorite restaurant: Gulf Shores Restaurant & Grill in Edwardsville