GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Born in Milwaukee and raised in Green Bay, this small-town Wisconsin native is stepping onto the world stage and into the limelight.
At only 21 years old, Mackenna Tolfa’s dream is being realized as she prepares to join the Blue Man Group World Tour as their featured female percussionist, also known as the role of the “DJ”.
This is my dream. This has been what I have been wanting since I started school and even before that.”
First introduced to playing the drums when she was little, Tolfa says it was love at first sight. “When I was younger my uncle, who is from Milwaukee and is German, and I, would play polka music together… And so, I just fell in love with it and wanted to continue to pursue it further.”
And Tolfa would do just that.
Playing percussion all through her middle and high school years, this Preble High School alum says a large part of her success so far is thanks to Preble staff, faculty, and students.
A huge part of this whole journey happening is definitely because of the music program at Preble and the teachers there. I had a really great experience with the teachers and the students and they really became family… I wanted to continue doing this whole thing because of the education I got there and the relationships I created there.”
After graduating from Preble High School in 2018, Tolfa went on to pursue a degree in Music Performance for Percussion at the University of Minnesota. Here Tolfa enrolled in the university’s percussion studio and encountered another individual who became an integral instrument in her musical journey.
University of Minnesota’s Percussion Studio Associate Professor, Fernando Meza, not only helped guide and strengthen Tolfa’s skills in playing percussion through college, but he also helped her network and make connections within the world of Broadway.
It would be through these connections, that Tolfa would get a once-in-a-lifetime chance to audition for a spot on the 2022 Blue Man Group World Tour.
Tolfa recalls that the moment she was informed that she had secured an audition for a spot on the tour she was vacationing in Southern Spain with her college roommate.
I was vacationing in Southern Spain with my college roommate and her family when I got the call that I had an audition…Where we were staying was kind of like a desert, with only like 400 people in the city.”
And while Southern Spain was a perfect vacation destination, it also presented Tolfa with a few unforeseen challenges during her first virtual audition. For the audition, Tolfa was tasked with replicating a song, chosen by the Blue Man Group company, within a 12-hour time frame.
As time ticked down, Tolfa says she and her host family scowered Southern Spain for a music store that was opened and would let her use their equipment.
My roommate’s family was on the phone with all of these music stores way outside of the city, like an hour and a half away…We eventually found a place and drove like three hours there.”
When she arrived at the music store Tolfa had just under four hours remaining to get acquainted with the unfamiliar drumset and begin working on replicating the song.
I wasn’t playing with my own set in Spain. I rented this drumset that was nearly falling apart from the store. I had no idea what I was going to be dealing with but this was the only place I could play.”
Yet, these obstacles wouldn’t get in the way of her dream. Tolfa successfully completed and submitted her audition video, and just over a week later, was notified that she would be advancing to the second round of auditions in New York City.
While the first round had already put Tolfa’s skills to the test, the second round of auditions would be no different.
One thing that I’ve struggled with in college is my performance anxiety.”
Tolfa says walking into that New York room filled with Blue Man Group judges felt like a nightmare. But just like her first audition, Tolfa rose to the occasion.
“When I got to this [the second] audition I stood outside of the theater for a couple of seconds waiting to go in and I was like ‘this opportunity is so absolutely incredible and rare and who knows if you’ll ever get it again’ and I kind of just held on to that thought when I walked in there and I was able to have a lot of fun and that was the goal more than anything; being able to walk out and feel like I gave it everything I had,” shares Tolfa.
And Tolfa undoubtedly gave it everything she had because shortly after the second audition, the Blue Man Group company informed her that she and another contestant had made it to the final round of auditions, which would be taking place the following day.
Arriving at the third and final audition, Tolfa says it reminded her of the second audition.
They [Blue Man Group] wanted to see if I was able to be in character while I played, so, they asked me to do some pretty weird stuff like ‘okay, so I want you to focus on this spot on the wall and when you focus on that spot I want you to think of the absolute worst thing that’s ever happened to you and portray that emotion with what you’re doing with your body’ and we’d look at another spot and it’d have to be a different character essentially. So, there was a lot more of an acting element.”
Within an hour of completing the final audition, Tolfa’s dream became reality as she was named the Female DJ for the 2022 Blue Man Group World Tour.
My immediate reaction was uncontrollable crying, I just couldn’t believe it. I was absolutely thrilled. I don’t even know the words to use because it was incredible.”
Within 20 minutes of receiving the phone call that changed her life, Tolfa had to report to rehearsals.
Rehearsals in New York lasted for one week and then Tolfa was able to return home and continue practicing via Zoom.
Tolfa says she currently practices a minimum of four hours every day, on top of her school work. She adds that her days are largely made up of music and learning, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
The first stop of the 2022 Blue Man Group World Tour will be Japan. After that, the group will continue traveling along the pacific coast visiting several different countries including South Korea, Taiwan, and Australia.
Unfortunately, as of right now, the tour will not be making its way to the U.S.
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