Artist of the Month - September 2023
Written by Lucile Harrington
MUSIC IS MAGIC FOR LOCAL TALENT
Kyle Wallis is one of those rare people who rides a unicycle, balancing on one wheel with no handlebars, just for the fun and challenge of it. He is also a musician who plays multiple instruments – all at the same time, another challenge that he calls “enthralling.” Music has primarily been a hobby for Kyle, but he has performed around Menifee for a dozen years, mostly as part of shows. He recently presented his own full two-hour set at the Summer Nights Music Series, sponsored by Arts Council Menifee (ACM) and the Countryside Marketplace. Now Kyle has been chosen Artist of the Month for September 2023 by the Arts Council. “I am so honored to be chosen,” he says, explaining that he’s a big fan of the organization. “They do so much for artists in the community. They keep in touch with everyone and keep us connected.”
Kyle closed out the Summer Nights series at the Menifee Marketplace on August 26, singing and playing with his one-man band setup of guitar, keyboard, drums, and harmonica. Kyle sings covers and originals that draw from a range of classic and modern rock, indie, pop, and folk. His August show featured Superstition by Stevie Wonder, Fix You by Coldplay, Arms of a Woman by Amos Lee, Be Like That by 3 doors Down, plus many others.
Kyle had been preparing for the Summer Nights opportunity for about a year. Last year, when he got the notice about the program, he didn’t feel that he had enough time to put together a two-hour show. After all, he is a busy man. He is a program coordinator for multi-lingual services in the Fontana School District, which takes a lot of time and energy. He also has a family with two young daughters. Usually he plays music for himself -- it’s a way to relax, unwind, and have fun doing something he loves. Performing a whole show for others by himself hasn’t necessarily been his goal, but he was open to it. “If I can bring joy or entertainment to others, that’s great,” he says. “Part of the joy in life is sharing.” So, this year when he received word about the Summer Nights event, he was ready.
Kyle’s love of music started when he was young. He grew up in Arkansas and Indiana, playing brass instruments in school bands, singing harmony in church, and listening to rock on the radio. But when he went to college in Arkansas, he majored in religion and Spanish. (Languages were also a childhood passion that challenged him and sparked his curiosity, and he has studied several.) He did learn to play piano in college, because it was an opportunity to “bump into” his future wife, who practiced piano in the music department. After college, the couple moved to Southern California where his wife Deborah was from.
During his young adult years when he was figuring out what he would do to make a living, Kyle continued to sing and play music. There were times when his work and his hobby intersected, such as the years he taught Spanish in elementary schools. Being a musician came in handy, as he wrote and performed songs in Spanish to engage the children. Outside of work, Kyle discovered that he really enjoyed writing songs about people’s experiences. He also learned how to play acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar, banjo, mandolin, and fiddle. He found out he could play harmonica and guitar together, which he really enjoyed. Eventually his curiosity, experimentation, and online research led him to the Farmer Foot Drum, a custom-made multi-instrument platform that he uses today. He says being able to make music with so many instruments at once is like magic for him. “It works well with my brain,” he says. “I’m just enthralled with the fullness of sound of a full band. It’s an amazing feeling that it’s all coming from me.” Fortunately, Deborah and the children, Claire and Naomi, also enjoy the music that fills their household. He says they are hugely supportive. “My daughters like to come in and dance around,” he says. “They grab the ukulele or hit on the cymbals.”
Kyle is himself supportive of other artists. He and his family are frequently in the audience at community events. It’s one of the reasons Arts Council Menifee wanted to recognize him this month. Council president Colleen Ackerman explains, “ Kyle is a great ambassador for the arts and Arts Council Menifee, as well as a unique talent. He has a wonderful can-do attitude,” she says, “and a willingness to be involved in our programs.”
Over the years, Kyle has been in Menifee’s Got Talent and the Arts Showcase, ACM's annual spring events that feature many local artists.
What’s next for Kyle? Well, he’d like to incorporate the banjo into his act. And he has a set of bagpipes he wants to play. He also says he needs more practice on his unicycle.
To learn more about Kyle Wallis, go to