Strums of pure passion

Strums of pure passion

Cindy Romero

Recognized as the Artist of the Month for his talent and skill in guitar, junior Cullen Griffin takes a break from music by the railroad tracks. He is inspired by progressive music whenever he experiments with his guitar to compose new songs.

Anais Hinojosa

Not knowing that it would one day become one of the greatest passions in his life, seventeen-year-old junior Cullen Griffin first stumbled across the guitar when he was a little boy of only five, looking for toys in the closet.

“I saw this beautiful-looking instrument and I had no idea what it was,” Griffin said. “I reached out and touched the strings and it made sounds; I felt frightened but excited and like I wasn’t supposed to touch it, so I just ran away from it.”

Several years following this incident, he received his first guitar for Christmas, only a few days before his eleventh birthday. That day, Griffin continuously bugged his uncle to teach him to play until he finally gave in. Thus, the art of guitar finally entered Griffin’s life after the original encounter and would grow to become an important factor in his life. Since then, Griffin has pursued his passion in music and developed prodigious skill.

Coming from a Catholic middle school, Griffin was determined to find an outlet that would ensure he got the most out of his next four years of school, so he joined Jazz Band.

“Cullen takes music seriously. He practices 24/7 and shreds like a beast,” Jazz Band member Jordan Gutrion said. “He’s probably the only person who can walk around school playing the guitar and it’s okay for him to do that because he’s just that good.”

However, Jazz Band is not the only band Griffin partakes in. Over time, he has been a part of numerous bands including an indie rock band called Painted as Monsters, which comprised of several Downey High alumni. Most of the bands Griffin has been a part of are the type of bands where a couple of guys get together for a couple of weeks or a month or two, play all the time, then lose interest. Currently, Griffin is a band of seven that has a big sound to it and a name yet to be established. Although he spends a sufficient amount of time practicing in bands, he also devotes his days to playing with many other individuals who aren’t in a band with him, but also have an interest and passion for music.

“He’s probably one of the best in Downey, so he gets to show me a lot,” bass player Ivan Pedraza said. “He has a bunch of different ways of playing so I get to hear different things from him.”

Amongst the genres the young musician plays are: jazz, ska, reggae, and different kinds of rock such as punk, alternative, funk, and, of course, classic rock.

“My favorite thing to do would probably be just to explore the whole musical landscape at one time,” Griffin said. “Everyday you get a different mood and a different feeling, so when you play you just let things flow through you, let it develop, and see where it leads you.”

There is more than finger work that goes into very note that Griffin plays, feelings and emotions are huge factors that come hand in hand with strumming. Anger, jealousy, joy, bliss, curiosity, and awe are behind the music that is being produced, sometimes a mixture of all of those throughout different times. When the music builds up to the climax point, however, awe tends to stand on its own.

At one point or another, just about every musician to ever strum a note was inspired by the great musicians throughout history. For Griffin, inspiration came chiefly from the legendary Jimi Hendrix, as well as from Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin. Further inspiration also came from his favorite modern day band, The Mars Volta as well as from electronic music because of its interesting, artistic sound.

Apart from being a guitar-playing prodigy in the making, Griffin also plays a few other instruments including the piano, bass, and drums. It is through his passion that Cullen Griffin is able to make people see that there is more to music than catchy tunes and Grammies; music is a wondrous landscape, a creation to be sculpted and explored, music is an art like no other.