Thirteen-year-old Marlee Starliper has a way of connecting to the inner core of an instrument. In her hands, she coaxes chords from an instrument she’s cherished since she was 3. When you’re in the presence of a budding guitar prodigy like Marlee, the music itself is but one part of her story.

Behind the riffs and the rhythms she teases out of the strings, you meet someone with a self-driven, motivated mentality. Marlee is a teen with tenacity, a willingness to unite energy and effort, and a musician that’s now amping up her musical passions with a signature Eddie Van Halen guitar, courtesy of LIVE.

Marlee’s mother Jill can recall her daughter’s affinity for guitars from an early age. “She’s always had a love for guitars in her,” she says. “She’s really faithful to her practice,” referring to the drive she makes from Dillsburg to Downingtown, where Marlee hones her performances at the School of Rock.

Jill attests to the personal and family sacrifices she’s had to make to support Marlee and her music.

“As a parent, it is my desire to nurture Marlee’s talent and to enable her to do her best. Giving up my Saturdays so that she can play in the band at School of Rock in Downingtown is part of that.  I think the sacrifice is worth it,” she adds. “I would rather go through life knowing that my husband and I did everything we could do to bring out the best in her and to help her pursue her passion rather than not giving her opportunities for her to rise up and see what she can do.”

That reality isn’t lost on Marlee. After her guitar instructor told her she needed to make an upgrade from the beginner guitar she had been playing, Marlee felt it was only fair to work for her dream — owning and playing a signature Eddie Van Halen guitar.

Through part-time jobs, Marlee connected with PA State Rep. Mike Regan. Marlee set about pulling weeds out of Regan’s flowerbeds over the spring and summer to save up for her guitar.

Regan shared the story of Marlee’s tenacity and willingness to work for something she wanted to accomplish, and that story inspired the LIVE and Think Loud family to help Marlee amp up her musical passions. LIVE lead guitarist Chad Taylor reached out to Marlee and offered her an opportunity to visit Think Loud Studios in York. But there was more to that visit …

Professional connections led to the purchase of that signature Van Halen guitar, and Taylor himself presented the instrument — and some advice — to Marlee.

“That’s the unique part of instruments. The longer you play them, the more soul they get,” he says, pointing out the guitar’s signature qualities to Marlee.

“There are many ways to reach your success. It takes time and diligence to learn an instrument. When you start young, there are no limitations,” he says.

Following the presentation and an opportunity to jam out through Taylor’s guitar rig, Marlee’s face glowed while fingering the strings on her Van Halen.

“I totally didn’t expect this,” she says. “This was wonderful, and I’m so thankful.”

“Receiving the guitar from LIVE and Van Halen helped affirm that I am on the right track, that I should keep pursuing my passion, and that others believe in me too. Chad from LIVE really inspired me and motivated me to keep working hard. I am so thankful for everyone who helped make this happen.”