Nick Locke-Henderson ’18 was in third grade when he realized music was something he wanted to pursue, something he wanted to be passionate about. He wanted to play guitar, and he wanted to be good.
“[Music is] a way to let go, and to not focus on school or any other obligations. I feel really at peace with myself. Not worried about anything,” Locke-Henderson said.
Aided only by YouTube tutorials and his own ear, Locke-Henderson has never received formal musical training and relies instead on self-instruction.
He was eight years old when his parents gave him his first guitar. After he had begged for months, it wasn’t until the celebration commemorating the anniversary of his adoption that they told him there was a surprise waiting for him at home.
“I walked out, and it was a red Fender guitar, one of the mini, child guitars, and a little amp that I still have. At first, I didn’t know what to with it. Playing the notes was really fun, but I had no idea what I was doing,” Locke-Henderson said.
After a few months of familiarity with the instrument, he was already learning Guns n’ Roses’ songs and forming a band with a friend. Getting accustomed to rhythm, experimenting with chords, and learning musically was something that clicked for him, he said.
“It was a lot of listening, and trial and error, seeing how things are oriented on the guitar,” said Locke-Henderson. “The biggest obstacle was getting over the first hump of learning the theory, the notes, and the finger placement.”
Last year, he decided to pursue music in school and enrolled in the middle school Music Technology course. He is currently taking Beginning Music Theory.
“Nick is extremely musical, with excellent instincts and a strong ear. He is eager to learn and passionately interested in music,” said his music theory teacher Mark Hilt. “What I’ve found with all students who study music is that the intellectual study is merely putting a framework and a language in place for what they themselves already sense and can hear. Some private instrumental teachers help their students with that, but Nick has never had private instruction.”
Between his dedication to baseball and to academics, Locke-Henderson said there is little time for leisurely guitar practice. Even so, he said he strives to make his music a weekend priority, whether that means playing at home, with friends, or in the park on a warm afternoon.
“I’ve connected with Nick when we’re both going through emotional times, and we’ve really bonded through music,” close friend Evan Keare ’18 said. “The feeling that comes out is so intense, so emotional, that I really think he goes to another place when he’s playing music. He has such a passion for it, it’s like a relationship, and he feels it so deeply.”
Guitar is his outlet, he said, the realm of freedom where the stresses of schoolwork and sports cannot confine him. From the beginning of his journey, guitar has represented a place where he said he could create an unguided lesson plan to direct his musical learning.
“I still have that first guitar,” Locke-Henderson said, “It sounds terrible, and I haven’t touched it in years. But I just look at it, and there are so many memories attached.”