By Jim Sullivan
---- — And to think it all started with the song “Secret Agent Man.”
Newbury Elementary School sixth-grader and classical guitarist Quentin Callewaert has a big evening ahead of him Wednesday. He will share the stage with Naxos recording artist Adam Levin during a concert at the Firehouse in downtown Newburyport.
“It’s going to be fun,” the 12-year-old said of his gig. “Because a lot of my friends from school will be there and some of our teachers will be there as well.”
Quentin plays both classical and steel string guitar. As an 8-year-old, he asked his father, Alan, to show him some tips.
“(Quentin) wanted to play, and I laughed at him,” Callewaert said. “He was just too small, I thought, for the guitar. But he insisted. So, I said, let’s try (television theme song) ‘Secret Agent Man’ and he picked it up really quickly. So, then we played other songs, and he was going really fast.”
Quentin was playing so well that he performed his first show as a fourth-grader, just one year after he started plucking the strings.
“It was the first time I ever played in front of a big audience like that, so I was pretty nervous,” Quentin said of his performance at a benefit for local troops.
“I wasn’t used to it. I started my first piece and I couldn’t really play it,” he added. “So, my dad then asked me if I wanted to still play. Then he gave it a moment and walked away. When he came back, I told him I wanted to play. After that, I played, and it went pretty well.”
Since then, Quentin has performed at the troop benefit every year. He also gave a solo concert for his classmates last spring.
“That was fun; that was really, really fun,” he said. “The song came out the way it was supposed to and I think people really enjoyed that.”
Now the Byfield boy will make the leap from his school stage to center stage at the Firehouse alongside Levin, who has performed across the United States, South America and Europe.
A classical virtuoso, Levin, who has released four albums and is working on four more, will be making his Firehouse debut as well on Wednesday.
“It makes me feel very proud to have this opportunity,” Quentin said. “Adam is a fantastic guitar player. It’s really fun to play with him.”
While his father admits it will be slightly nerve-racking for him and his wife to watch their young son perform for a Firehouse audience, Quentin is comfortable before a crowd.
“He just enjoys being up there, he really does,” Callewaert said.
Perhaps making the young performer feel a little more at ease is the fact that Levin is also his guitar teacher.
“Teaching Quentin has been a wonderful experience for me,” Levin said. “Rarely do you have the opportunity to work with a young person whose natural abilities on the guitar and talent are coupled with a strong passion for learning and improvement. There is a genuine sense of love and happiness surrounding music for Quentin.”
The first half of Quentin’s performance will feature classical pieces as well as his own composition, “Clockwork.” Then he will move on to more contemporary tunes from the Beatles, Fleetwood Mac and Queen.
“To think I started playing ‘Secret Agent Man’ to now, more complicated things,” he said.
IF YOU GO What: An Evening of Guitar with Adam Levin and Quentin Callewaert When: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. Where: Firehouse Center for the Arts, Market Square, Newburyport How: $14. To purchase, visit www.firehouse.org or call 978-462-7336.