Joey Martin, 15, Growing Into Role As Teen Guitar Hero

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One minute is all it took for Joey Martin to get comfortable onstage.

As he began playing a five-minute guitar solo at Westfield's by the Railroad Saturday night, he looked a little nervous, but after only 60 seconds, he slowly picked his foot up, placed it on top of his amp, leaned his head forward allowing his hair to fall down over his eyes and grinned ever so slightly. Although he had the crowd's attention from the beginning, it seemed to click in his mind after only a minute.

Thus is the life of musician, though. So why should you be impressed? For the same reason Joey's English teacher, DeeAine Watson, was in attendance: Joey is only 15 years old, and is just as talented as the twentysomethings with whom he shared the stage.

"When you can grab them and find out where they are, it's phenomenal," Watson said. "Kids teach me more every day than I'll ever be able to teach them."

A few months back, Watson was worried about Joey. Like any good teacher, she phoned his father, informed him of the situation and asked if he might know what was going on. Joey's father, Joe Martin, told Watson that Joey's life is (and probably always will be) centered on music.

Instead of simply telling Mr. Martin to make his son spend more time studying and less time with music, Watson went beyond the call of duty. She enlisted the help of her husband, a police officer who also dabbles in guitar and owns a Pignose amp. Watson brought the small amp, Joey brought his guitar, and the entire class was treated to a short concert as part of a class presentation.

"Music is a common language," said Watson, who has since seen an improvement in Joey's grades, class participation and morale. "He's a whole different child now."

At one point during the evening, Joe Martin, wearing a black leather motorcycle jacket, black jeans and beard and glasses - not unlike the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia - walked up to us and asked Rocks Off what we thought of Joey. It was hard to put into words, but we did our best.

"I think he's well worth promoting," Martin said with a smile, beaming with pride in his son's abilities. "I think his age can carry him if I can get him into the right hands."

The elder Martin gave his son his first guitar only two years ago, and from there the 15-year-old began to teach himself. Before learning guitar, he played bass in a school band, but stopped after breaking his collarbone in a skateboarding accident, which made the instrument too heavy for him. But God works in mysterious ways, and Joey found himself learning guitar and loving every second of it.

"I like to pick up the guitar and just figure it out," Joey said, speaking on how often he plays, how he picks things up and what kind of musicians influence him.

"I just find the scales... the chords... and the keys to the songs. I live with it."

Danny Gil, vocalist for Downfall 2012, met Joey and was so impressed by his playing that he asked to showcase him and put Saturday's concert together.

"I want to be in a band and play shows like this," Joey said of his current aspirations. "I like to play onstage in front of people."

And if his performance this weekend was any indication, he just might have a future doing so.

Follow Rocks Off on Facebook and on Twitter at @HPRocksOff.

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