According to StopBullying.gov, one-in-four students say they have been bullied at school, and that amount has risen to one out of every three kids in the United States.
And those numbers are based on children who actually admit it.
Growing up is difficult enough—especially at the middle school level. Your body is going through massive changes, you’re required to do well with your studies, and you’re learning how to fit into a social structure—all at the same time.
As if that isn’t challenging enough, tack on the pressures of our current social media world, which like it or not, its existence is the only reality that our children know, and you have a situation where kids can become seriously affected.
This is the Reality
Ryan Van Andel is a 12-year old student living in Portland, Oregon. Like many boys that age, he’s shy, unassuming, and trying to enjoy life as a kid. He also, like one-third of our students, gets bullied. His mother, Michelle, said that Ryan has arrived home from school with bruises, black-eyes, and even fresh blood. While she encourages him to stand up for himself and fight back, Ryan says he doesn’t want to fight. He wants to play guitar.
Music to the Rescue
Looking to cheer up her son, Michelle offered to take young Ryan out to see a local band. The self-proclaimed “Rocker Mom” is a huge music fan herself, and felt that seeing a band performing live would take his mind off of his troubles.
This particular Saturday night, Washington based band Friends of Ken was set to perform at the Heavy Metal Brewing Company in Vancouver—a place that believes in“Craft beer, craft food, and craft music!” and also allows minors in its establishment.
Michelle has been acquainted with FOK guitarist Eddie Van Damon for some time, and felt this was the perfect opportunity to give Ryan a special night. Little did he know how special it would become.
Having been informed of Ryan’s troubles, Eddie Van Damon was quick to react. In a moment of ingenuity, Van Damon invited Ryan up to the stage to play. Now of course, he couldn’t strum a note, but Eddie had a trick up his sleeve.
He instructed Ryan to strap on the guitar and act as if he was playing. When the band tore into Honeymoon Suite’s hit “New Girl Now,” Van Damon wrapped his arms around young Ryan from behind and played the parts flawlessly.
With Ryan donning dark shades and bopping his head to the beat, from the crowd point of view, it looks like the youngster is actually playing the song!
The Power of the Internet
Two days later, Van Damon posted that video in the wildly popular Facebook Group Cover Band Central—which together with its Page boasts nearly 150k members (Edit: Now over 200K). The reaction from the musicians community was immediate and overwhelming.
Thousands of people from around the world viewed, commented, liked and shared in a matter of hours. The positive feedback and incredible support is the foundation with which the CBC Group is built on, and this was glaringly evident in the response—as you can see below:
It was only a matter of time before more ideas to help this young man came pouring in. It was suggested that a Go Fund Me campaign should be launched to get Ryan some gear. A short time later, musicians started offering to donate items to contribute.
After doing a little legwork and awaiting a donated guitar strap from Australia, Van Damon set a date to present the gifts to Ryan. He wanted to surprise him—and with cooperation from Rocker Mom Michelle—a Sunday morning meeting was scheduled.
Live...from Portland, Oregon
It’s a scene not unlike any reality show on TV. As soon as Van Damon hit the “Go Live” button, he briefed the audience on the covert surprise plans, introduced our hero Mom, and headed indoors with point-of-view camera in hand to greet our unsuspecting future guitar hero.
In what must have been a bewildering experience for Ryan, Van Damon dragged him out to the street and instructed him to stand near the front of his vehicle and close his eyes.
One-by-one Van Damon presented Ryan with each item. The first was a comprehensive guitar instruction book complete with CD.
Next, a super cool guitar strap sent all the way from Australia along with a personally written letter of encouragement.
Finally – what good would all of these other do without the grand daddy of the donations? Drumroll please….. It’s a brand new guitar!
There’s no one answer to stop anyone from bullying. Some people are just not nice. Kids bully. Adults bully, too. It’s not illegal and there’s not much in place to enforce it. We can’t change the behavior of others, but we can always help ourselves.
According to most resources regarding music education, the benefits in learning abilities, attendance rates, and cognitive skills all increase by playing an instrument. But what most fail to mention and recognize is the boost in confidence and self esteem that playing music provides.
I was bullied as a kid. I can relate to Ryan and his struggles. It wasn’t until I started playing bass at the age of 15 that I felt a purpose in life. Music can do that.
Maybe Ryan won’t become a guitar prodigy. But maybe he will. At the very least he has something to feel good about now.
After all, all he wants is to play guitar.