Wyclef Jean’s musical praise hits high note for Lowell High School junior
LOWELL — Brian Terrero-Batista starts finger-picking and percussion- tapping his guitar on stage.
Wyclef Jean — the three-time Grammy award winner — bobs his head, swaying back and forth.
He’s catching a vibe from the 17-year-old Lowell High School junior.
“Everyone always says they think it (the unique strumming and tapping) is so cool, and then Wyclef hears it and goes wide-eyed,” Terrero- Batista recalls from last week. “That was pretty awesome.” After jamming out and talking about music at UMass Lowell last Thursday, the pop superstar handed the high schooler VIP tickets to his show in Boston later that night.
Post-show at The Wilbur Theatre, they talked some more and Wyclef told others backstage about Terrero-Batista’s talent. Before parting ways, Wyclef encouraged him to submit a demo for his mixtape.
“It all caught me off guard,” Terrero-Batista said. “Last week, I never would have imagined I’d be in this position. It’s pretty amazing.”
Wyclef was at UMass Lowell’s Durgin Hall last week. In addition to playing music, the songwriter and producer from Haiti heard students perform and offered them advice during the master class for music students. The solo artist and founder of the Fugees has been looking for up-andcoming vocalists and instrumentalists to contribute to his “Wyclef Goes Back to School” mixtape. He was searching for collaborators at UMass Lowell, where his tour coordinator graduated from in 2017.
Through his publicist, Wyclef had this to say about Terrero-Batista on Wednesday: “This young man took a simple chord progression and made it into something magical that draws you in and holds you. His strumming while carrying a beat on the body of the guitar stands out, too. I can’t wait to hear the rest. Keep on playing.”
He will. The talented high schooler hopes to land a spot on the mixtape.
“It’s a very exciting time right now,” said Terrero-Batista’s uncle, Wiley Batista, 27, who got him into music at a young age.
Wiley bought Terrero- Batista his first guitar when he was 8 years old. His nephew started learning notes and melodies faster than he could.
“His mind was like a sponge,” Wiley said. “He was picking up everything so quickly. It was super impressive.”
Then in sixth grade, Terrero-Batista met a student who played with the unique tapping style.
Terrero-Batista learned the style and started to evolve his technique. He has been working to perfect it ever since.
“I always knew he had the potential for this,” Wiley said. “I’m glad everyone else is now seeing the things I’ve been seeing. It’s really a matter of ‘when’ instead of ‘if.’ ” For years, friends and family have praised Terrero- Batista, urging him to pursue music down the line.
But when that praise came from Wyclef last week, it pushed him much more.
“That kind of validated everything for me,” the high schooler said. “If he’s saying I’m talented, I should probably take that into consideration. I should definitely pursue music 100 percent.”
The unique style of strumming notes and tapping the side of the guitar to add a percussion aspect reminded Wyclef of David Broza, according to Terrero- Batista.
Broza is an Israeli guitarist/ singer/songwriter who performs similar rhythmic patterns.
“That’s some high praise,” Wiley said.
Terrero-Batista learned about Wyclef ’s upcoming UMass Lowell performance while at UTEC. He was recording there the day before Wyclef was coming to the city, and he was invited to the university.
When he asked his parents if he could leave school early, the big Wyclef fans at home said he should absolutely go see Wyclef.
Terrero-Batista ended up bringing his father to meet Wyclef at the show in Boston. “He was so happy, he was about to cry,” he said of his father. Terrero-Batista has recently been practicing at the music clubhouse at Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lowell. Many students head there to compose and record music.
“He has grown super fast since he’s been coming here,” said Omar Miranda, music clubhouse manager.
Terrero-Batista plans on recording his demo at the Boys & Girls Club in the next couple weeks.
“My main focus is getting that to Wyclef, and making sure I can impress him again,” he said. “All of this has just been amazing.”
Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun.