When he was 8, Quentin “Q-Tip” Faulkner asked his parents for an electric guitar. Not sure whether this was a passing fancy, dad Ben handed him a small acoustic guitar and said if he learned to play well enough to perform “Hey, Soul Sister,” he’d get what he wanted for Christmas.
He did it. And, if there were any doubts about his desire to play, they’re long gone.
In the five years since getting his first guitar, 13-year-old Quentin has turned into a prodigy, and the Prairieville teen will perform the national anthem before the New Orleans Pelicans’ game against the San Antonio Spurs at 7 p.m. Thursday at the 18,000-seat Smoothie King Center.
To say this will be Quentin’s biggest audience is a huge understatement. But he says he’s ready.
“When I went up to play ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ at Prairieville Middle School and looked up, I was, like, ‘What did I get myself into?’” he recalled. “And I took a deep breath and played it, and it just flew by.”
Then again, everything has been rapid about his development as a guitarist. Going to YouTube for tutelage, Quentin taught himself how to play “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” which features Guns N’ Roses’ guitarist Slash, well enough that it convinced his parents to sign him up for lessons. Practice was never an issue.
“When he first started playing, we were really concerned, because he would play until his fingers literally bled, and he’d be crying because of the pain he was in,” Ben Faulkner said. “We would tell him, ‘Just stop playing,’ and he would say ‘I can’t.’ It was what he was driven to do.”
While Slash was Quentin’s original inspiration, he began expanding his horizons, listening to Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix and Steve Vai. He even plays some Bach in his quest to learn faster, more difficult music.
Hendrix’s epic “Star-Spangled Banner” performance inspired some of the version Quentin will play before the Pelicans’ game.
His progress was such that he surpassed his local teachers, and this year Quentin has begun Saturday lessons at Don “Moose” Jamison Heritage School of Music, a program where professional musicians instruct talented youngsters.
“Quentin is super gifted,” said John Boswell, who teaches the talented and gifted music program at Prairieville Middle. “Not only is he a very excellent guitar player, but he also plays French horn in the middle school band, and he made it into the honor band.
“He just has a real gift for music, a really musical ear. He’s one of those lucky people. He’s continued to work on his craft in being able to read music, but he has the gift of his ear,” Boswell said. “On top of it all, he’s a really hard worker.”
Although Ben Faulkner enjoys the guitar, he’s a mechanical engineer by profession and said Quentin is the only musician of their six children.
“I really had a lot of reservations about getting him in some band,” Faulkner said. “I’ve seen people on TV where they bring their kid around playing in bars and stuff. We wanted him to be a child and enjoy his childhood. If music is going to be his life, we didn’t want him to be pushed out there too soon, and he’d be more like a circus sideshow than respected as a musician. But, at the same time, he said he wants to get in front of people and play.”
That will happen Thursday night, and the Heritage School of Music program will provide more such opportunities at music festivals this spring.
“If I end up finding some opportunity that lets me play music for a living, I’m definitely not going to let that option go to waste,” Quentin said.