Corey Yeatts

By Text and photos by Peter Vankevich

School talent shows have their benefits. They can be an opportunity for break-out moments where both the performer and the audience realize something remarkable is happening.

Such was the case for Corey Yeatts at the Ocracoke School Talent Show in February when he wowed the audience with a virtuoso performance of “For the Love of God,” by Steve Vai.

Corey, 16, who will be a junior in the fall, won the talent show after having taken lessons in earnest with Lou Castro over the last year.

Corey’s love of the guitar started slowly. When he was 12, he got one for Christmas and started lessons but it didn’t jell.

“The teacher started by teaching notes and I didn’t feel any inspiration,” he said and set his instrument aside.

May 13 last year was a pivotal day back to the guitar. He attended a Def Leppard concert in Greensboro with his parents Deena and Sandy Yeatts. Before the concert, they visited a music store and he purchased a Squire electric guitar.

When he returned to the island, at the urging of his mother, he started taking lessons from Lou Castro who, with Marcy Brenner, are the popular performers and recording artists known as Coyote.

“When I got to meet Lou, I thought he was the coolest dude ever and he totally inspired me,” Corey said.  “After just a few lessons, I was playing better than ever and practicing five to eight hours per day.  Within weeks I could play all of the chords perfectly.”

Castro said Corey is a great guitar student and has come a long way.

“I’ve been teaching him for only a year, but he is now tackling music by Steve Vai, an amazing guitarist who is like a modern-day Hendrix,” Castro said.

Both Vai and Castro are graduates of the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

“I give direction to my students but I can’t make them learn a thing,” Castro said. “They must teach themselves, and Corey has definitely taken the initiative.”

Castro said he learns himself from teaching Corey.

“It’s a pleasure teaching someone who forces you to reach higher and challenge yourself,” he said.

Vai’s song, “For the Love of God” that Corey performed at the talent show, is a six-minute instrumental encompassing a number of difficult techniques, including using a whammy bar, harmonics, fast legato runs and sweep-picking.

This March, Corey released his first original instrumental on Spotify, “Racing to Forever.”

“I still have a lot to learn,” Corey said. “Right now I rely on guitar tablatures (a form of musical notation indicating instrument fingering rather than musical pitches), but now want to learn to read music.”

Corey pretty much plays in the garage now, often jamming with island paramedic Mike Damba, but is looking forward to performing live.

Corey and his family moved from Yadkinville to the island four years ago when his dad took a job as an EMT. All three of the Yeatts family are members of the Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department.

Remember his name.


Listen to Racing to Forever

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