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By Stephen Sellner | Citizens Bank Staff
For many, life’s journey is not a straight and narrow path, but instead, is full of twists, turns, false starts, and successes, little and big. This article is one in a series showcasing the many ways people’s experiences bring them to where they are now and prepare them for the future — Adrian Read is Made Ready, and so are you.
It was the biggest night of Adrian Read’s life, so naturally he was in a full-blown panic.
It was 2015, and Adrian — the drummer of rock and hip-hop group Quantum Split — was about to step on stage at the Kigali Up Music Festival in Rwanda. Kigali Up is one of East Africa’s biggest music festivals, and more than 8,000 fans eagerly waited for the party to rage on.
“I was scared,” Adrian remembers.
As he trekked on stage along with the rest of the band, Adrian wasn’t sure he could play. It’s a pretty big leap to go from playing for 400 people to nearly 10,000.
Then Adrian thought about all the sacrifices his mother Rosa had made for him and his sisters. He reflected on all the odd twists and turns his life had taken. His insecurities as a child. The heartbreak of missed music opportunities. The day he gave up music for good. The gift that brought it all back.
If Adrian could conquer all that, certainly he could handle this.
Adrian was made for this moment — even if he didn’t realize it at the time.
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Adrian Read was born on December 20, 1989, in San Francisco de Macorís, a city in the Dominican Republic. Adrian, his parents, and two sisters lived in a small village outside the city in a house built by Adrian’s father, Andrickson.
Three years later, the Reads packed up and set out for America. The family of five eventually settled in New York City. Adrian’s youngest sister was born there three years later.
For having three siblings, Adrian wasn’t the most social kid around. Far from it. His three sisters all got along while Adrian kept to himself. He didn’t talk much to his siblings or his mother.
“The only thing I had was playing video games with my dad,” Adrian says.
Andrickson introduced Adrian to video games when he was two. They immediately struck a chord with young Adrian. When his father got home from work, it was time for Mega Man on Nintendo. Years later, it was Sonic on Sega Genesis or Donkey Kong on Super Nintendo.
While this hobby brought Adrian and his father close together physically, that was the extent of their relationship. They spent plenty of time together during Adrian’s childhood, but didn’t spend much of it getting to know each other.
As a result, Adrian never learned how to socialize or be comfortable with himself. Talk to girls? That was like asking 8-year-old Adrian to finish a quadratic equation while reciting the alphabet backwards.
He did have one friend in second grade. Adrian would sit back and watch the boy do simple kid things, like play with classmates at recess. He marveled at his friend’s self confidence and social skills.
“Just watching that was difficult for me,” Adrian says. “I couldn’t open up like that.”
So Adrian stuck to the video games. It was his safe space, a haven away from the social anxiety he carried with him.
Then, at age 11, his parents had some news. They were getting a divorce. Adrian’s father, the only person he had some sort of connection to, was leaving the Bronx to return to the Dominican Republic.
But that wasn’t all.
“My dad took everything,” Adrian remembers.
Couches. Dishes. Even his mother’s clothes. Rosa was left with four mouths to feed, a roof over her head, and just about nothing else.
“I didn’t quite understand what was happening at the time,” Adrian recalls now. “My mom just did what she had to do.
“That’s something that’s always stuck with me.”
◆ ◆ ◆
Rosa juggled jobs at a local restaurant and nightclub to provide for the family. She eventually replaced all the furniture and clothing her ex-husband had taken with him when he left.
“She never had a day off,” Adrian reminisces.
Rosa wasn’t the only one struggling with her new life. Adrian became even more introverted as he entered his teenage years. At 14, he returned to the Dominican Republic to spend the summer with his father, hoping to rekindle the one relationship he had.
It was there that his father introduced him to the movie “Desperado.” In the film, Antonio Banderas plays the main character, El Mariachi, a musician-turned-killer. Adrian was intrigued by El Mariachi. For some reason, he couldn’t stop envisioning Banderas’ character holding his guitar.
Later that summer, a neighborhood boy stopped by Adrian’s father’s house. In his hands was a guitar. Adrian had never seen one in person before. The boy explained that he was trying to learn to play it when Adrian asked if he could try, too. So he let Adrian mess around with it.
“I had no idea what I was doing,” Adrian admits. “But I felt this affinity for it.”
“It was my best form of expression and connecting with people. It changed my life.”
He remained enamored with the guitar even as the summer ended and he returned home to the Bronx. Eagerly he went to his mother for a favor. Could he get a guitar of his own?
Rosa was all for it. Finally, her boy was showing an interest in something that didn’t involve staring at a screen. The two visited a local pawn shop and found a black Ovation acoustic guitar for sale.
A hundred and fifty dollars later, Adrian had his guitar.
His life would never be the same.
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Adrian was obsessed. He’d go to school, come home, and go straight to his guitar. When he discovered that his high school offered a guitar class for beginners, Adrian couldn’t sign up fast enough.
On the first day of class, Adrian walked in feeling a little unsure of himself. Sure, he knew he wanted to play the guitar, but the pressure to learn a new instrument and validate his mother’s $150 investment in him was hanging over his head. What if he wasn’t any good? What would he do next? What would he tell her?
As Adrian entered the room, he heard a familiar sound. The professor, Mr. Rose, was playing the Super Mario theme song.
Adrian knew right then and there: This is where he belonged!
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He consumed himself with the guitar. That first year, he practiced eight hours each day. The class required everyone to perform at a recital in front of family and classmates, which only made Adrian ramp up his practice. He swears he practiced the riff to Fountains of Wayne’s “Stacey’s Mom” for six hours straight to prepare for his first performance.
“I drove my family crazy,” Adrian remembers fondly. “It was crazy to hear myself playing this song that was coming out of the radio.”
The practice was paying off. Adrian picked up the instrument quickly; soon he was practicing songs from the advanced class in addition to his beginner class.
Something else started to happen. People were finally noticing Adrian.
“It was my best form of expression and connecting with people,” he says. “It changed my life.”
Adrian couldn’t get away from the class. Not even high school graduation in 2007 stopped him. He returned to the class the following school year to help out Mr. Rose and new students. Adrian collaborated with all 10 students and even joined them for their performances. Meanwhile, he worked the overnight shift as a teller of a check cashing service to make ends meet.
That continued for a year. Then, Adrian left high school for good. He started collaborating with friends, but nothing ever came of it.
Adrian remained a teller until he decided he needed more flexibility in his schedule to accommodate his obsession. So he thought of other ways to make money.
Exercising was something Adrian had always enjoyed. As a child, he would watch “Dragonball Z” on television and marvel at the characters’ physiques. He always made time to work out.
With this plan in mind, Adrian researched what it would require to become a personal trainer. All it took was a six-month certification program and passing a test; he was sold. Adrian was certified in 2009 through the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and after passing the test, started working as a freelance personal trainer.
That wasn’t the only change in Adrian’s life. That same year, he decided it was time to go to college. That didn’t stop Adrian from playing the guitar, and one day a classmate approached him about starting a band.
Adrian was hesitant. “I was really trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my career,” he says. But after hearing the classmate sing, Adrian changed his tune.
Studying took a back seat to music. The two spent all day writing music and performing around campus. They built up a good reputation and eventually found a drummer and bass guitarist to round out the band. They performed at private parties, in the New York subways, and even at night clubs.
“That was a big step in my musical career,” Adrian recounts.
Unfortunately, it didn’t last.
The lead singer — the one who convinced Adrian to form a band in the first place — decided music wasn’t in his future after all. Instead, he wanted to devote all his attention to pursuing a degree in sound engineering. The band was no more.
Adrian was crushed. He was so ready to give this dream everything he had. All his eggs were in this one basket. Turns out, Adrian was the only one in the band thinking that way.
“That made me not want to do music,” he says.
◆ ◆ ◆
Adrian’s guitar went untouched for a year.
With music out of the picture, he shifted his focus to his personal training career. Adrian even started his own business, Shape4good.
“I set up a website and everything,” Adrian says.
Adrian was on his way. Sure, it wasn’t the music life he had dreamt of for himself, but he had the flexible schedule he craved. The money was good and so was life.
Adrian steadily built up his clientele for two years, spanning the Bronx, Harlem, Manhattan, and Brooklyn. Then one day, he woke up with a scary feeling: emptiness. Suddenly, it felt like a hassle to get up and go to work. It turned out that personal training wasn’t as much of a passion as Adrian once thought.
“It started to feel like a job,” he recalls.
“The path of a musician or artist is never straightforward.”
Adrian wrestled with what to do with his life. Then came December 20, 2010 — Adrian’s 21st birthday. He was still doing plenty of soul-searching at the time, and his family took notice. That day, Adrian opened up a gift from his sister to find a book: "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho.
“I had probably read five books in my life up to that point,” he laughs. So what would make his sister want to gift him a book, of all things, for his 21st birthday?
Just read it, Adrian’s sister told him.
“I read that book in one day,” he says. “I was obsessed.”
The book tells the tale of a shepherd boy named Santiago who sets out to find treasure he saw in a dream. The message is simple but poignant: follow your dreams.
As Adrian furiously flipped from page to page, he came to realize that music, not personal training, was his treasure. “When I started to play the guitar, I didn’t do it because I wanted to make a career out of it,” he says. “I just wanted to play.”
Adrian knew his days as a personal trainer were over. He abruptly quit the business to pursue music with everything he had. No matter where it took him.
“That decision,” Adrian says, “changed everything for me.”
◆ ◆ ◆
Adrian sought out opportunities to perform. He combed through online forum listings looking for work. Adrian still had his physique from his personal training, so he even considered doing some modeling work. All the while, Adrian worked three days a week at Burlington Coat Factory to have some reliable income to pay the bills.
Eventually, he found an agency looking to hire people to participate in studio audiences. Fifty bucks a day to clap? Done.
While there, he got to talking with a man from the agency. Knowing Adrian’s music background, the man told him about a band he knew of that was in need of a guitarist. The band, Quantum Split, was managed by the Laurent family.
“Are you interested?” the man asked Adrian.
He wasn’t so sure at first. Yes, he desperately wanted to make a career in music, but Adrian was still a little traumatized about bands in general. All he’d known was failure and disappointment. Adrian preferred to do his own thing. After all, he knew he could trust himself.
Still, there really wasn’t any harm in checking them out. So Adrian went to Quantum Split’s Facebook page to see what they were all about. One thing was clear: This was no college band. They had a great following and a great sound. The potential was there.
“You know what?” Adrian thought. “Let me give it a shot.”
Intrigued, Adrian contacted the Laurent family and eventually sent in an audition video. The family liked what they saw and heard, so they invited him to their house on Long Island for a 10 pm live audition.
Doubt crept back into Adrian’s mind. Did he really want to venture from the Bronx all the way out to Long Island to audition for a band he wasn’t convinced he wanted to join in the first place?
Maybe it was Santiago talking to him. Or maybe it was his mother. But Adrian couldn’t shake the idea that this audition was important.
“I had this feeling that I really had to do this,” he says.
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Adrian walked into the Laurents’ beautiful house for the audition. As he looked around, he was struck by their pool, home, and the career-driven people who occupied it. Joanna Laurent was the lead singer’s mother and band manager. Richard Laurent was the music director and coach.
“Where I come from, you get a job and you work, make a living, and that’s pretty much it,” he says. “For them, it was very different.
“This was right where I needed to be.”
The band had Adrian jam with them to one of their songs, “America.” He was given no direction. They wanted to see how he’d adapt. Sink or swim.
Two hours later, the band was sold. Adrian was their guy.
This time, there was no uncertainty. Adrian wanted in. “I called my mom as soon as I was done,” he remembers. “I told her things were going to change.”
◆ ◆ ◆
Things changed, all right.
Quantum Split toured all over the United States. Adrian describes the band’s sound as “a more modern Rage Against the Machine.” A mix of rock and hip-hop. Part Run DMC and Aerosmith.
Behind the scenes, the band was a full-blown operation. There was structure: rehearsals multiple times a week, strategy sessions, brainstorms on the band’s next steps. Sure, they had disagreements from time to time, but they always felt like family. They all had the same drive and goals.
The band was coming into its own, and so was Adrian. He learned how to connect and communicate with people through what he says is the strongest language there is: music. Without music or the Laurent family, he probably would’ve remained the anti-social, reserved version of his childhood self.
“Becoming a musician has taught me how to express my voice,” he says. “And it helped me understand that we need each other and we cannot go through life without the relationships and bonds we build.”
Then, in 2015, came the biggest thrill of Adrian’s career: playing at the Kigali Up Music Festival in Rwanda. Sure, he was nervous. You would be too if you had to play in front an audience of 8,000-plus.
Once Adrian hit the first note, he heard the audience roar. “From there on,” Adrian said, “I felt invincible.”
All fear disappeared during Quantum Split’s hour-long set. Coming off stage, fans were running up to them and snapping pictures with their phones. Media outlets rushed over to get interviews.
“I felt like a true rock god,” Adrian says.
To think, if it hadn’t been for all his mother had done for him, maybe Adrian would’ve been too nervous to go out there. Rosa hustled to make ends meet for the family, never taking a day off or a second to complain. Adrian vowed that her sacrifices wouldn’t be in vain.
“It’s always pushed me to do things,” Adrian points out. “Even if I’m not comfortable or I’m scared, I feel like I have to do it. I need to show her that the work was worth it.”
It’s that motivation that got Adrian to this pinnacle of his career. And it’ll be the driving force in the next phase of his life, too.
Quantum Split mutually agreed to part ways in 2018, but not before returning to Kigali Up in 2016 and 2017. It was time. The lead singer went out on her own. The rest tried to keep it going for a bit, but eventually, everyone agreed it was best to go their separate ways.
Adrian holds no ill will this time around. He knows how much the Laurent family and Quantum Split did for him.
“My dreams were to perform worldwide and have that rock star dream,” he says, “and that’s what we did. I owe them everything.”
So, what’s next for Adrian? He wants to tackle his next venture as a performer, this time as an actor. Even when he was in Quantum Split, Adrian looked for other ways to make money and ended up getting work as an extra. From there came a new love and passion.
He’s never taken an acting class before, but that isn’t going to stop him. Adrian’s read a book on the subject; books always seem to lead him to the right place. He’s even written comedy sketches in his spare time. That’s right — the boy who used to cower in the corner at family parties likes to make people laugh. Go figure.
“I have that same feeling I had when I first learned guitar,” Adrian says. “That same passion and drive transferred over to this.”
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Adrian is a man who will always follow his passion. It doesn’t matter if it’s guitar, acting, or whatever catches his heart next. He tried the safe route before; that ended with a personal training business that got old real fast.
“If you take up something that you’re not really into,” Adrian explains, “the amount of work that you have to put into it to see that succeed is crazy.”
Sure, touring the world with Quantum Split was a dream come true. But it took countless hours developing and writing music and practicing to get to that point. Adrian, now 29 years old, is convinced that if he didn’t have a love for music and performing, he never would’ve lasted as long as he did.
But now he’s here. And what a roundabout road it’s been.
“The path of a musician or artist is never straightforward,” Adrian explains. “Oftentimes, I felt lost and uneasy about my career choice. At times, I had doubts. But somehow, it always found a way back into my life.”
Deep down, Adrian always had faith that everything would work out. There were times he didn’t know how or when, but that’s what having faith is all about. It’s about controlling what you can control, waiting for your big break, and seizing the opportunity.
Did Adrian know that picking up side work as a studio audience member would lead to a conversation that would eventually put him on stage in front of thousands? Certainly not. But the universe has a funny way of looking out for people who follow their passions.
“All I can say,” Adrian says, “is I’m glad I followed that feeling all those years ago.”
Adrian is featured in new Made Ready advertisements for Citizens Bank that can be seen throughout the northeast and the internet. Learn more about how others are Made Ready and how you can be too. Click here.
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