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Blue Man Group's Youngest Performer, 17, Rocks More Than Lakeview's Stages

By Serena Dai | May 27, 2014 6:47am
 Luke Sangerman, 17, is Blue Man Group's youngest national performer.
Luke Sangerman
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LAKEVIEW — Glance up next time you're at a Blue Man Group show.

The drummer in neon yellow banging out during the high-energy performance might just be Luke Sangerman — a 17-year-old high school student who's the youngest performer to ever be in a  Blue Man production.

In fact, Luke started when he was just 16, beating out more than 150 professional drummers at an open audition last year.

"I wasn’t expecting really anything," he said. "When I got the job, it was kind of a miracle."

Serena Dai introduces us to the youngest member in Blue Man Group's history:

But Luke's age doesn't mean he's not a seasoned performer.

The Chicago Academy for the Arts rising senior started making noise at 9 months old, breaking his mom's wooden spoons on old pots and pans, mother Jae Sangerman said. At 6, Luke started taking lessons from a man he and his father met on weekly trips to play drums at Guitar Center.

Soon after, he started playing Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin music with other young musicians at School of Rock, a performance-based music school, including touring the country and playing Lollapalooza.

"I was always just so overwhelmed by the idea of the drums," he said. "When you're a kid, the whole idea of banging on something and making a lot of noise is really — it’s like a sense of freedom."

It's paid off.

He studies jazz and classical marimba at the competitive arts school now, balancing physics and algebra  with music theory and composition. The school's flexible about letting him miss a few classes, and Blue Man tries to schedule him in evenings or weekends. (He plays in the musicians' loft, wears a black outfit, and isn't one of the blue, bald performers.)

And when he's not rehearsing or in class, Luke has other projects going on, too.

He just finished a stint as an understudy drummer for the Goodman Theatre's performance of "White Snake." He plays jazz gigs and jam sessions around the city. He and former School of Rock friends have a jazz, R&B and soul band called Woo Park, which recently won Columbia College's Biggest Mouth competition, earning them $1,000 and eight hours of studio time.

And this summer he's helping write original music for local rapper Noname Gypsy, an artist also known for being on Chance the Rapper's song "Lost."

"I’m happy to focus on Blue Man Group and playing music with my friends and making the music I want to make," he said. "I won't be in school [this summer]. That gives me a lot more time."

Luke, whose wavy, shoulder-length hair is more akin to a young Mick Jagger than a mane of today's teenager. Still, his tender age has its drawbacks at times: once, a venue booked Woo Park but kicked him out before the set because he was under 21. He shrugged and went home.

"Most venues are cool with putting X’s on my hands and letting me play the show and just saying 'Stay away from the bar,'" he said.

Luke's passion for drums is a positive way for him to stay out of trouble, his father, Rick Sangerman, said. Luke's parents have supported him but never pushed him into things, the teen said.

Even now, with so many projects, Luke will get back home from Blue Man Group and play the drums for three hours straight, Rick Sangerman said.

They didn't even know about Luke's Blue Man audition until after he went. Luke just got on his bike, went and told them the story when he got back, his father said.

"That’s who he is," Rick Sangerman said. "He runs his life. I’m not a stage dad."

Luke won't be stopping his music education anytime soon. He's looking at schools in New York to continue studying jazz.

"I know a lot of people probably say this, but I feel more comfortable behind the drums than I do walking around on the street," Luke said. "It’s kind of what’s happened over the years."