Seventh-grader plays peaceful blues for NATO
August Domanchuk, 13, of La Grange, sings the blues at the Art Institute of Chicago during a luncheon Monday for spouses of world leaders attending the NATO summit. | Photo courtesy of Michelle Domanchuk
Updated: May 29, 2012 11:45AM
As protestors in Chicago stomped and chanted anti-NATO slogans Monday, a La Grange teenager sang a different tune at one of the summit’s venues.
August Domanchuk, a seventh-grader at Park Junior High School in LaGrange Park, was invited to perform some blues selections with 13-year-old Alex Lund of Chicago’s North Side.
The two met for the first time just days before entertaining at the Art Institute of Chicago during a luncheon for spouses of NATO senior leaders. The new blues duo scrambled to get in two rehearsals for trading guitar solos and polishing vocals before the big gig.
“It was a one-of-a-kind experience with all the different countries there,” August said. “Obviously, I was not there with all the top NATO people, but Mayor Emanuel was there. After my guitar solo, he winked at me.”
August and Alex’s entrée to a corner of the world’s stage was through blues artist and educator Fernando Jones, who met August at Jones’ first blues camp for kids in 2010 at Columbia College.
“When he asked me, I was basically shocked,” August recalled. “I played in some cool places, but nothing nearly like this. I’ll be able to tell my kids when I was 13, I played for people at the NATO summit.”
The two teens narrowed their selections to “My Babe,” by Little Walter, “I’d Rather Go Blind,” by Etta James and a crowd-pleaser Jones wrote: “Chicago (Has Got Everything You Need).”
“The song goes, ‘Chicago’s always got something for you, Chicago’s always got something new, Chicago welcomes you,’” August said. “It’s a call and response song. Alex started it, and I did the response.
“Everybody stood up and clapped,” he said. “The mayor liked that one.”
Although he realized it was a momentous occasion, August said he wasn’t too nervous, because he has been performing since he was 8 years old and started playing guitar.
“We got there early and had a little time to practice,” he said. “I know it was a really big deal, but I just wasn’t that nervous. I did my best and definitely think they enjoyed it.”
August said the audience was very appreciative. Some members thought the music was a recording until they came inside the room for the luncheon, he said.
“How to promote peace in the world is almost like the same thing with blues,” August said. “You don’t have to speak the same language to understand it, and you can feel the blues in almost every type of culture. It’s pretty peaceful to listen to.”
Although August focused on his music, his parents, Michelle and Ted Domanchuk, sweated the details of traveling downtown amid tight security with their son, his guitar and amplifier. They admitted to being apprehensive about protestors, especially after watching the news.
“I almost forgot about the protestors when I was inside playing,” August said. “But when we stopped for hot chocolate at the Corner Bakery on the way home, we could see policemen with their helmets on and bikes all in a row.
“Then we could see the protestors coming down with signs. I went inside and videotaped the whole thing in my iPod,” he said. “It was cool just to see that.”