Freshman Shares Guitar Skills During, After School

Anh Trinh, Staff Writer

As traffic builds up after the bell rings on the State Highway 360 Access Road, drivers lower the volume of their radios to pass the time to listen to freshman Sean Kelley shredding his Gibson Les Paul Studio Electric Guitar, plugged into an orange amp.

Occasionally, Kelley gets shouts of support from onlookers, but things changed a couple of weeks ago when a student driving by recorded his performance with his cell phone. Unbeknownst to him, that video would be seen and retweeted by hundreds.

“I feel really good that people can see me play,” he said. “It gives me exposure and I like performing for others. Even though some may see me as weird, that’s never a good reason to go after something you really want.”

The seven-second video was filmed by junior Aikeel Shakur.

“I’ve seen him play multiple times in the same spot and every time I have seen him, I’ve cheered him on,” Shakur said. “I took the video because he has serious talent and my man deserves to be put out there in the world.”

In the weeks since, Kelley has been known throughout the school as the “guitar kid.”

“When I first found out that he was a freshman, I couldn’t believe it because he has so much confidence,” sophomore Daniel Harris said. “He has guts to do what he enjoys and I respect him for that.

Every day, Kelley brings his equipment to school to play songs.

“I started to play my guitar at school in November,” Kelley said. “I brought it one day to get extra credit on a Geography project. When I was bored at lunch, I started playing ‘Freak Out!,’ which I learned recently.”

Freshman Myranda Brown said she anticipates his small shows during lunch and after school

“What he is doing is pretty cool,” she said. “I sometimes see him next to Collins Street. It’s entertaining whenever I pass by him.”

Playing guitar and being around music also helped him cope with his father’s death from cancer, Kelley said.

“When he first passed away I was depressed,” he said. “Then I learned that life is too short to be sad, so I live every day like it’s my last.”

In 2009, during the first Christmas without his father, Kelley received his first guitar.

“I got a guitar that year and it really helped to pass the time,” he said. “I had just discovered Green Day, but soon learned about other great bands like The Ramones, Descendents and Black Flag. The music really helped me escape.”

Kelley said he realized that being sad is not going to solve anything.

“I look on the bright side of life, even when people make fun of me,” he said. “If they knew the truth (about his father’s death), they would still say mean things because that’s how people are.

Kelley taught himself to play guitar and got serious about performing last year, when he got his Gibson, he said.

“I watched videos of people playing online and just copied just them,” he said. “I would watch music documentaries to see their technique. I also would listen to my recordings to critique myself.”

Kelley has been playing for a year.

“Sean played his guitar to an anthem that he wrote the lyrics and music for,” Geography Teacher Derek Coulson said. “Different groups in class presented information about a fictional island as we learned about the Earth last fall. Sean’s group presentation was definitely one of the most creative.”

Coulson said he enjoys assigning hands-on activities.

“I try different ways to get students to be original while tying their creativity to knowledge,” Coulson said. “Sean has taken and run with his talent. As a teacher, this really makes me proud. For him, playing guitar is a great form of expression.”

The music he plays is rock, which his father also enjoyed.

“My dad was a big music guy,” he said. “He had stacks of CDs and was into bands like Metallica and Pantera.”

He is currently looking for musicians to start a band with, he is writing original songs.

“I write songs about the problems of the world rather than about my own,” Kelley said. “Sometimes I just make up scenarios that are messed up and write about that too.”

Kelley has dreams of playing at venues with his own band one day, but for now he is content with his small concerts on the side of the road and in the school cafeteria. Stay updated on his Twitter @Terrafin55.

“Through the music I gotten better over time, but even now I’m still improving,” he said. “All I know is that I just want to play.”