Aug 05, 2019

Colts Neck’s Next Upcoming Rockstar

By Lori Draz and Maddy Hellstrom

Maddy Hellstrom colts neck nj 1

Each month our young authors write, in their own voice, stories that will educate and inform fellow students and parents. If you are a teen who would like to write your story, contact The Journal. We’ll help you polish it up, so don’t worry, let’s just get to sharing.

This month’s author is Colts Neck’s 15-year-old Maddy Hellstrom, a rising sophomore in the Entertainment Technology program at Howell High School’s Fine and Performing Arts Center (FPAC). Maddy has a dream shared by many: a career in music. But more than dreaming, Maddy is working hard to make it her reality. In school, she works on video and audio production, music theory, music history, and everything in between. In her private life, she writes, studies and performs, as a solo artist and with her band Spinning Bad. Every day she learns more about music and herself. She invites you to look for the new Spinning Bad song this month at and visit them on Instagram @spinning_bad or Facebook, and to follow her journey @maddyhellstrommusic on Instagram. Music takes a lot of work, faith and good fortune. Here is Maddy’s story:

Having a career in music has always been my goal. Some days I want to be a professional guitarist or producer; other days a composer or performer, but music has been my dream since I was a child. In the past few years, I started writing original songs, and it has been the most thrilling and freeing experience ever. Turning raw emotion into a piece of art is incredible. Music doesn’t care who you are or where you’re from. Everyone can create a piece of themselves to give to the world. Getting it out into the world is something I’ve been working hard at.

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Having a good mentor is so important. No matter what your passion is, a good mentor is an important step toward success. Start your quest for a mentor on social media by networking and making connections. Look for people who are doing what you want to do one day and send a nice message. There are many really talented and accomplished people who are willing to talk with you. Musician and composer Dillon Kondor, best known for his work on Broadway with “Dear Evan Hanson” and “Beautiful, the Carole King Musical” is my mentor. I connected with him on Instagram. I saw that the official “Dear Evan Hansen” account was following him, and I found an email address after reviewing his posts. I emailed him telling him how much I loved his work, how I felt connected to the message of “Dear Evan Hansen” and how his music had helped me through a lot. I also attached a video of me playing “Eruption” by Van Halen. His response was so kind and thoughtful, and we have been emailing back and forth ever since. He helps me sort through my thoughts about possible career directions, and he gives me feedback on new ideas.

Many people think they can just pick up an instrument and be great. The truth is it takes a lot of time, persistence and passion to develop a solid comprehension of any instrument. I still have a lot of work to do, and I am definitely my toughest critic, but I am on my way for sure. I practice and work on new material constantly, challenging myself always. You must never stop being a student of the instrument. With guitar, there are always new and different genres, techniques, and players to study. For example, my playing went to a whole new level when I started studying jazz last year. Studying and transcribing great musicians such as Wes Montgomery and Charlie Christian have given me a whole new skill set and a bunch of new compositional concepts and ideas. A hunger for knowledge and a humble attitude will get you further in the music industry than any level of talent. When you find your passion, it’s critical to never stop reaching. Studying even when you’ve mastered something is the best thing you can do. Resting won’t get you to your goals!

I also try to be as open minded as possible. I create and take advantages of opportunities. My advice to a young musician is to roll up your sleeves and get to work. It doesn’t come easy, but persistence will allow you to achieve your goals. There is no time to coast. Keep pushing yourself to the next level. Your inner voice is often the toughest, so keep it positive for the greatest success. I evolved into my positive voice, and my best advice is to be tough but kind to yourself.

Working in the music industry isn’t an easy ride. When I decided I wanted music as a career and not just a hobby, I was met with varying responses which weren’t always positive. I have an incredibly supportive family, but dealing with negativity from teachers, friends, etc. has been difficult and definitely caused its fair share of self-doubt. Also, I’ve found that aside from all the amazing benefits of working in the music industry, there is also a dark side of jealousy, manipulation and greed that corrupts the minds of so many industry professionals. The one thing that’s gotten me through all this is the feeling of pure joy that music brings me. That can’t be taken away by anyone. In an industry that tries so hard to tear you down and rip you apart, be a ray of light, love and positivity. Be a mentor to others. Remember why you started and build off of that.

So my career goals shift, but they never leave music. Our band has survived seven years together, and we’ve formed lifelong friendships. I look forward to what I will continue to learn and discover along the way.