Bridges student makes musical dream come true

For 12-year-old Joel Starkey, music has always been his inspiration. Bridges Community Academy hosted a Mid-Winter Rock & Roll Beach Blast Friday to help benefit its arts and technology, and Starkey was the featured entertainer.

The event was at The Viaduct Bar & Grill and featured numerous activities, including a 50/50 raffle. In addition to Joel and his band, The Party Crashers, music was supplied by Brit & Sean and Foreplay.

Joel, a Bridges student from Findlay, was born blind, diagnosed at 8 days with detached retinas. At 5 years old, Joel found his gift in music by picking up a keyboard.

Joel sings and plays guitar and also writes most of the songs, including “Ice Cream Baby,” about one of his favorite treats. Joel performed his first concert in August outside of Archie’s Drive In in Findlay. After every gig, Joel has to have ice cream, according to his mom, Cindi.

“Joel’s music is truly a gift,” Cindi said.

To play, Joel lays the guitar in his lap like the Canadian guitarist, singer and songwriter, Jeff Healey, who also is blind.

The band formed this past summer. Dave Kerr was fundamental in getting the band started. Kerr is also the lead guitarist in the band and Joel’s guitar instructor. The other Party Crashers are Cam Sayre, bass, and Dave Nalle, drums.

The band has a sound that is in-between country and rock. It generates from Joel’s favorite musician, Jimmy Buffett. Like most of Buffett’s songs, Joel uses his experiences from traveling and his love of the beach as inspiration for his songs.

“Joel has a great entertainer aspect,” Cindi said. “He loves to work the crowd.”

Joel began playing in 2008 in between sets of the Rock & Roll Outlaws and Foreplay.

“We have also had a great support system,” Cindi said. “Bridges has embraced Joel’s music. They definitely have gone the extra mile for us. Coordinating this event for their benefit is our small way of reciprocating.”

Joel hopes to one day play at a stadium filled with 100,000 people. He wants to go to the beach during the day and be a rock star at night.

“I love getting the crowd fired up and the audience singing along,” Joel said.