News Articles/Columns -
As you walk through the door of Jason's Jazz and Blues Nite Club in Belmar, you hear the sounds of wailing guitar created by stretching a Fender Statocaster's strings close to their breaking point. It sounds like a Hendrix tune with a little bit of Stevie Ray Vaughn thrown in but as you make your way through the crowd towards the stage the guitar sounds you are hearing oddly don't seem to be emanating from the any of the band members you can see.
As you inch closer and begin to peer over the shoulders of those watching the band you finally see the source of the sound which has been blocked from your view. Perched on the edge of the stage is a 4'5" tall 13-year-old named Brian Amsterdam and you know immediately that you are watching the formation of a future rock-and-roll star.
"I started playing when I was 7 years old and had to use a special guitar called a Fender Duo Sonic which is three-quarter size because back then I couldn't fit my hand around the neck of a regular sized guitar."
The Howell Township seventh grader continues. "Instead of television, my parents always had music playing in our house and that's how I started to get interested in playing guitar. Some of my guitar heroes wound up being Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Pete Townsend, Stevie Ray Vaughn and a lot of others."
The word "prodigy" may get thrown around a little too easily in this day and age, but when you look at a list of Brian's accomplishments to date, you begin to see that the term was not errantly applied. In addition to wining various Battle of the Bands competitions, he has performed for the legendary New York guitar player Les Paul, who is credited with inventing the electric guitar and is, in musicians' circles considered the Pavarotti of the guitar world. He has also performed on Radio Station 94.3 "The Point" and the Monmouth Cable TV show "Perspectives."
But his most impressive accomplishment was his performance in the Jimi Hendrix National Guitar Competition. He was one of seven selected to perform out of thousands from the northeastern United States and was narrowly edged out of first place by a 17-year-old from Indiana.
Brian has been taking guitar lessons for the past six years but even those who know nothing about music will be able to tell that he possesses a talent and gift that a lifetime of lessons could not teach.
Terry and Ricky Amsterdam, Brian's mother and father, accompany him to every performance. Ricky Amsterdam continues. "We asked my mother if there was anyone in our family's background who possessed some sort of extraordinary musical talent that could explain Brian's ability and there doesn't seem to be. He just seems to have been born with it."
When asked if the attention he has been getting has changed him, Brian's mom replies. "It hasn't in the least. He's a good student and a very social kid and has a lot of friends who all look up to him and think that everything that's happening to him is really cool. We're so happy that he has something that he loves so much and is so gifted in. He absolutely amazes me."
"The things you are immediately impressed with are this kid's presence and confidence on stage." Mel Hood has owned Jason's Jazz and Blues Nite Club for the past 28 years and over that time has heard literally thousands of guitarists and speaks to Brian's talent. "In spite of his talent, Brian seems to be very down to earth and there's no doubt in my mind that because of his attitude and temperament that he's going to be one of the great players some day."
When asked how he would feel if some day he had to go into New York to sign a record contract and eventually wound up in heavy rotation on MTV, the look in Brian's eyes gives you the answer before he speaks. "That would be like a dream come true. I want to be doing this for the rest of my life."
Tomorrow Brian will be performing "The Star Spangled Banner" while Governor Christie Whitman raises the flag at the grand reopening of the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, and he will also be performing at Lakehurst Day on June 17.
Go Back Home!