Pearl Jam guitarist mentors foster children in music-making

Dec 10, 2018, 6:19 PM
Mike McCready Pearl Jam...

You can never underestimate the healing power of music. For many foster kids, music might be the only constant they’ve had in their lives.

RELATED: Pearl Jam donates $1.3 million to Seattle homeless youth center

For Pearl Jam guitarist, Mike McCready, it’s been a lifelong passion. So when he was recently asked to help five young aspiring musicians produce a song, he jumped at the chance.

As the guitarist for Pearl Jam, McCready is in his element when he’s on stage with other members of the iconic Seattle rock band. But he admits that when the boys arrived at the studio that day, he wasn’t sure what to expect.

“I didn’t know what they could do or what their strengths or weaknesses were, or what mine were,” he told KIRO Radio’s Ursula Reutin.

For many years, McCready has worked closely Treehouse, a non-profit organization whose goal is to help give foster children the opportunities and support they need to become successful adults.

All five of the teens he was going to mentor had experienced or are still living in foster care.

When one of them, Sergio, arrived at the studio that day, he was a bit star-struck. “Just seeing him freaked me out a little because I was so happy,” he said.

Another teen, Rickardo, also had to calm his nerves at the beginning. “I don’t know what it means if you say a C-chord or a G-chord,” he said.

McCready says the young men came to the studio full of ideas. He just helped them weave everything into a working piece of music. With his mentoring, it only took a few hours before Rickardo was beatboxing and playing the guitar on an acoustic hip-hop ballad called “Try So Hard.”

The song is about perseverance. The words tell their story.

“I didn’t really have family when I was a kid. I don’t know what family means,” Rickardo said, “but I realize that music is my friend. It’s family to me.”

The song’s lyrics include these lines: “There’s no mistakes to be made, there’s only room to be great, every time you make make a move, let it be by your fate.”

McCready was blown away.

“There’s a message within those lyrics that talks about making mistakes but they’re really opportunities,” McCready said. “That’s something we can all learn from … that a mistake is really an opportunity for growth.”

For Sergio, being able to collaborate with the guitarist for Pearl Jam was an experience he will never forget.

“I learned that even though he’s popular, and a big rock star, he’s really just like all of us,” Sergio said. “He’s human, he’s smart, he’s fun. It was just awesome.”

McCready thinks he got more out of the experience than the teens did. He says it changed his perspective.

“Wow!” he exclaimed. “These kids are creating music and they’ve been through such dire circumstances with abuse, addiction or neglect. And they’re creating this music, and it’s important to them.”

McCready says he will always cherish the experience and hopes he can do it again. He plans to release their song under his label, but no date has been set yet.

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Pearl Jam guitarist mentors foster children in music-making