Josh Tirado was older than the age limit at Rock To The Future, a free music workshop for city kids, when he started picking up his little sister, Samira Long, there four years ago. While he was waiting for her to finish band practice, the 14-year-old, 5’9”, 230-pound high school football player would sit down with other students and assist them with their math homework.
One day, RTTF program director Josh Craft approached Tirado.
“He said if I keep helping kids with their math homework, he’ll teach me how to play guitar,” remembers Tirado.
Tirado quit football and visited the Kensington-based workshop after school nearly every day and most Saturdays for the next four years. While other kids in his Fishtown neighborhood were stealing bicycles, joining gangs, getting into fights and worse, Tirado learned how to play guitar, bass, piano and drums.
“Thank god I didn’t hang out with those kids,” Tirado says. “I’m not trying to mess up my future or anyone else’s.”
He had been bullied when he was younger but the music lessons gave him the social skills to deal with people. He quit fighting with his sister. Tirado became more disciplined and his grades improved – he was an honors student his last two years at Franklin Learning Center. In June, he became RTTF’s first high school graduate.
“He’s doing things on his own now,” says Tirado’s mother, Catherine Long. “He didn’t have the confidence to think he could do stuff before.”
In August, Tirado ended his RTTF house band career, performing the intricate guitar solo in Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” before a small crowd at a fundraiser for the organization. He started classes at the Community College of Philadelphia this semester. He plans to become an X-ray technician.