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King for a Day: Self-Taught Senior Performs with Green Day

Onstage+at+the+Green+Day+concert%2C+Mauricio+Solanocordero+%E2%80%9824+and+Green+Day+guitarist+Billie+Joe+Armstrong+strike+up+the+opening+chords+to+Knowledge+in+front+of+a+cheering+crowd.+In+Solanocorderos+eyes%2C+his+performance+takes+him+another+leap+forward+to+pursuing+his+dream+as+a+successful+musician.+%E2%80%9CI+want+to+have+an+impact+on+people%2C+make+someone+pick+up+a+guitar%2C+you+know%2C+not+be+just+another+guy%2C%E2%80%9D+Solanocordero+said.
Courtesy of Mauricio Solanocordero
Onstage at the Green Day concert, Mauricio Solanocordero ‘24 and Green Day guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong strike up the opening chords to Knowledge in front of a cheering crowd. In Solanocordero’s eyes, his performance takes him another leap forward to pursuing his dream as a successful musician. “I want to have an impact on people, make someone pick up a guitar, you know, not be just another guy,” Solanocordero said.

Standing on the Green Day concert stage, Mauricio Solanocordero ‘24 sifts through the crowd, looking for his dad.

“I couldn’t see him,” Solanocordero said. “It [was] like looking at the ocean.”

Briefly, he forgets what he is on stage for, but a gesture from a band member spurs his muscle memory. Despite never taking a single music lesson, Solanocordero thrills the audience with a perfect rendition of Knowledge by Green Day. 

The day after the concert, Solanocordero receives a video from the person sitting next to him in the audience – a video of his dad watching Solanocordero play his guitar on stage.

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 “[He was] almost crying [of joy]. That’s what made it the best night of my life,” Solanocordero said. “It’s not even that I played [but] that my dad was there to watch me play.”

Music has always been around Solanocordero. Growing up in Costa Rica, he listened to Green Day and Michael Jackson with his dad, who would play the acoustic guitar. Young Solanocordero would then mimic his dad’s moves on his own small guitar.

“I wanted to do the same thing, [but] we couldn’t afford a guitar for me back then,” Solanocordero said. “[So] I would act like I was playing along.”

So, when 13-year-old Solanocordero immigrated to the United States, one of the first things he did was buy a cheap acoustic guitar. Though his dad taught him a few cords at first, Solanocordero resorted to mimicking guitarists on YouTube and playing by ear to learn how to play.

“Whenever I’m playing rock and metal, I put my heart into it,” Solanocordero said. “I feel [that] music is like a language, [and] it’s like letting your heart talk.”

I feel [that] music is like a language, [and] it’s like letting your heart talk.

— Mauricio Solanocordero

Shortly after getting his first electric guitar, Solanocordero went to his first Green Day concert, where he saw the band bring someone up on stage to perform with them. 

“I was like, ‘okay, I want to be that guy,’” Solanocordero said. 

From that point on, Solanocordero made it his mission to perform onstage with Green Day. At home alone in his room, he rehearsed all parts of his soon-to-be performance. From the beginning, Solanocordero corroborated his self-fulfilling prophecy – he practiced as if he was going to actually play, not fully knowing that the motivation in his mindset made the wish come true. 

“I really rehearsed [and] had it all planned out,” Solanocordero said. “At the end, [I planned to] get on the drum platform and jump [off] of it. I would practice that on the staircase of my house.”

The day Solanocordero attended his second Green Day concert, he and his dad showed up to the concert area at 9 a.m. to wait in line. 11 hours later, as the gates to the concert area opened, Solanocordero sprinted the half mile to the concert stage, despite protests from the security at the gate. 

“I [didn’t want others] to get there before me,” Solanocordero said. “[And] as soon as I started running, I looked behind me, and I saw everyone who was running, [so] I sped it up.”

Solanocordero reached the gates first, catching a seat in the front row. His dad, sitting a few rows behind Solanocordero, sported a sign with an arrow pointing towards him. 

“One side of the sign said that I play guitar, and that I know the chords for Knowledge, the song I wanted to play,” Solanocordero said. “On the other side of the sign, it said that I skipped school for this.”

During the second song of the concert, Green Day guitarist and singer Billie Joe Armstrong spotted the second side of Solanocordero’s sign.

“He reads the sign, and then he goes, ‘I’ll do you one better. I dropped out of school for this,’” Solanocordero said. “I was so happy with that, I didn’t even care if I play[ed] with them anymore.” 

A few songs into the concert, Green Day prepared to take a guitarist up on stage. Much of the crowd around Solanocordero, including some security guards, began to make noise and point at his sign, ultimately catching Armstrong’s attention again.

“[Armstrong] asked if I [knew] how to play, and I said yes, screaming to the top of my soul,” Solanocordero said. “And then he was like, ‘okay, you [can] get on stage,’ and I was about [to] die of happiness.”

Solanocordero jumped the gate to the stage and made his way up, where Armstrong approached him with a guitar and a guitar pick. Briefly, Solanocordero fumbled, but regained his composure as Armstrong prompted him to start playing, and Solanocordero struck up the chords to Knowledge, playing to an attentive crowd. 

“When [I played the] solo, an emotional solo, it was like letting the guitar speak for [me], from [my] heart,” Solanocordero said. 

At the end of the song, Armstrong signed the back of the electric guitar and gifted it to Solanocordero. He then asked Solanocordero for his name. 

“He started chanting my name, and then everyone in the crowd started chanting my name,” Solanocordero said. “I felt like I was floating.”

Post-concert, Solanocordero still pursues his musical dreams with a fiery passion. He writes his own music that he hopes to release someday. In college, he intends to join a band and work to make his band successful. 

“I just want my music to change people, like Green Day did for me,” Solanocordero said. “When I listen to [myself] play, the song speaks to me, and it’s like my heart understands something my brain [can’t]. I want to have [that] impact on people.”

When I listen to [myself] play, the song speaks to me, and it’s like my heart understands something my brain [can’t]. I want to have [that] impact on people.

— Mauricio Solanocordero

Performing onstage with Green Day is just one step closer for Solanocordero to chase the life that his younger self could only dream of.

“Life is short. [I think that] if you want to do something you like, just go for it, even if it’s a little risky,” Solanocordero said. “And if you want to play with Green Day like I did, just be crazy; that’s how you do it.”

This story was originally published on Westwood Horizon on November 12, 2023.