SWANTON — Kaiden Prim is taking his musical cues from older generations, starting with classic 80s rock groups like Guns and Roses, and newer heavy metal bands like Avenged Sevenfold.
He’s also learning from a local rockstar: Andre Maquera of 8084.
Prim is part of a variety of Missisquoi Valley Union High School’s sweeping music programs, including classical instrumental bands, music technology and a rock band.
Now in 10th grade, Prim said he taught himself to play guitar six years ago by watching a DVD of country musician Keith Urban. He continued by using YouTube videos and online guides before looking for an in-person teacher.
“Eventually, I got to the point where I wanted to join the bands at school,” Prim said. “While I was in there, I was asked to join the jazz band and the pep band, so I joined those two and I started my own one. I’m hoping to eventually get somewhere with music.”
High school band director Aaron Garceau said both he and Maquera recognized Prim’s talent for guitar and his dedication to music.
“I have never seen a kid that young who just plays as voraciously or as effortlessly as he does,” Garceau said. “He just goes home and eats, sleeps and breathes this stuff. He’s in here all the time, and he’s also just a really nice kid.”
Garceau started at MVU in the fall of 2007, and said the administration goes above and beyond to support music education as they know student musicians act as spokespeople for the school at concerts and parades.
“They’re always willing to work with us to make things happen, just like our rock band class,” Garceau said. “It’s not a typical class that most high schools have, but they were super happy to have it come in because it embraces a bunch of kids who wouldn’t normally be in the regular marching band or anything. There’s not a lot of room for electric guitars and keyboards in that stuff.”
Prim first met with Maquera after an 8084 event at MVU in November 2022. Through Prim’s careers teacher Mary Hartman, he got an introduction.
Maquera and 8084 have performed for over 30 years, styled in the 80s in the same vein as massive hair-metal bands like Van Halen and Twisted Sister. The group was formed in 1982 and Maquera is a guitarist and vocalist.
After visiting Maquera’s studio in St. Albans, West Street Digital, Prim signed up for lessons.
Maquera often gives lessons, but said Prim’s talent makes him especially fun to teach. In the digital age of music, Maquera said in-person lessons and bands are an essential component that can be easily lost online.
“One of the great joys as an artist is to make sure there’s another generation following along behind us,” Maquera said. “Kaiden is a particularly fun student to teach, because he’s rather advanced for his age.”
Maquera said modern teaching tech like YouTube is a double-edged sword, as it allows for more accessibility but can also take the patience out of practice by providing too many distractions.
“One of the things I talked to Kaiden about when he’s talking about how he is advancing through his music progress is ‘put a band together,’” Maquera said. “You’ll never learn more than when you’re not just playing along to a music track or a YouTube video. Learn to interact with people.”
By playing with others, Maquera said it forces the musician to react to other players and learn stage presence for active performances. Playing solo is great for technical skills, but playing in a band is essential for any wannabe musician, he said.
Nowadays, Maquera said one of the hardest bridges for new musicians is the change to performing for other people rather than a phone camera like on TikTok or Facebook, and it is difficult to teach how to interact with an audience.
“There’s a lost art to entertaining as a performer,” Maquera said. “You don’t just look at your shoes, and nothing against the shoegaze population but there’s an art to being a musician, an entertainer, and a performer, and you try to encapsulate all of those things into a live performance.”
For Garceau and Maquera, teaching is the vehicle that moves the modern music scene forward.
“I think it’s incumbent upon this generation of performers to bring in the next,” Maquera said. “It’s something we have to do.”
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