By Don Coble
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Paul Wane didn’t need a microphone inside the Thomas Hogan Memorial Gym on Jan. 19, but his message resonated with the small group of boys huddled on the bleachers.
He talked about approaching life with a positive attitude and working every day to improve – all with his customary red, white and blue guitar hanging from his shoulder.
“In life, people will try to bring you down,” Wane said. “Don’t let them do that. When you climb a ladder, you don’t want to step a rung down to get on their level. Bring them up to your level.”
Wane had the same Jacksonville Jaguars jersey he wore when he played “The Star-Spangled Banner” ahead of the Jaguars’ regular season finale against the Tennessee Titans on Jan. 7.
Then he flipped a switch on a speaker, hit a couple of buttons on the floor control board and played a few riffs to make sure it wasn’t too loud.
He suddenly owned the room.
Wane asked the boys if they wanted to hear the National Anthem. Not only want to hear it, but they also sat wide-eyed as he dove into the song.
Wane said he needed to get back into the recording studio, but his exit was delayed when one of the boys asked him to play another song. It proved to be one of the most-satisfying encores of his career.
His reason to be at the school was two-fold: he announced he and Jay Murphy of Murphy Custom Guitars were donating a music studio to the school. The gift included guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, mixing boards and lights.
He also told them he and some of his friends would be back to give lessons.
What started as a hope to have Wane speak to the boys at the school quickly turned into the most-ambitious donation from Wane’s Guitars for Kids Rising Star Foundation.
“I saw the story of him playing before the Jaguars game and when I saw he said the power of music can bridge generations and bring people together, that resonated with me,” said AMIkids Director of Education Joshua Grant. “I knew I wanted to talk to him.”
He searched the internet at school and he found a telephone number to book gigs with Wane’s Duval County Line Band. He called four times at lunch; never putting the phone down – or giving up. Then Grant’s phone rang. It was Wane.
“From the start, I knew we were on the same frequency,” Grant said. “We talked several times about how we can partner up for the betterment of the boys.”
Wane agreed to stop at the school last week. Nobody expected him to bring his guitar – or the promise to create a studio.
Some of the boys recognized him, but all were curious about why he was there. So was Grant.
“I knew he had something up his sleeve, but I didn’t know he was going to give us a music room,” he said. “I was overwhelmed by the quick turnaround from my call to his appearance.
Grant said more than 25 of his students now want to play the guitar.
“I’m elated to have the feedback from the boys,” Grant said.
The music studio was donated in the honor of one of Wane’s friends, guitarist Duane Johnson of the band Sam Hill who died last week.
DCL will play a celebration of life show in Johnson’s honor on Feb. 11 at American Legion Post 250 in Middleburg on Jan. 11 and the music room will be named after Johnson.
AMIkids is located at the Augusta Savage Mentoring Center. According to the organization, it’s dedicated to helping boys discover the potential within them, transform their lives and strengthen the community. The organization empowers boys through care and guidance to reach that potential to break the cycle of failure and poverty.
“This program will create a pyridine shift for these boys, and it will spill over to other core classes,” Grant said.