NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - The saxophonists wailed, the trumpeters blared, the drummer played a boom-bap-boom and the bass player furiously plucked the strings.
Ten or so New Brunswick High School and Middle School students played their hearts out Wednesday night in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform with a two-time Grammy Award winner.
Marlow Rosado, a Miami-based salsa recording artist, song writer and producer, played two songs with the students. Later, Rosado brought the students back on stage to perform solos while his band played in the background.
About 100 parents, students and teachers swayed to the Latin beats in the high school auditorium during the free concert to help kick off the Hub City Jazz Festival.
Rosado did a clinic with the students during the day before playing two songs with Rosado at night.
He calls his program "Zero to Grammy." The zero part refers to his childhood first in Puerto Rico, then Miami, when he was raised by a single parent who struggled to make ends meet.
So when he speaks to kids - he has a degree in education and was an elementary school teacher for 10 years - he holds himself up as an example of how far laser-focus, hard work and a little luck can take you.
He says kids often have stars in their eyes and they're looking to make it big in the music industry because they like the idea of being famous.
Fame does not necessarily equal success to Rosado.
"I'm not the famous singer that will sell out a stadium, but I have produced many successful records for many artists," he said. "I have over 70 songs I've written for people like Ricky Martin, who's a huge, huge star. And I own my own recording studio and I have five records of my own and I have two Grammys. There are some people who are famous that have not reached the level of success that someone like myself has reached."
The kids listened, too. They say with Rosado, who won a Grammy in 2012 in the Best Tropical Latin Album category for "Retro" and added a Latin Grammy a few years later, his reputation proceeds him and that he has their full attention.
"When he told me about the mambo, just to keep the mambo straight, I was like, 'Yes. Yes, sir. I can keep the mambo straight,'" said Yamil, a drummer, putting his hand up to his head as if saluting a commanding officer.
"He's good at what he does," said Yulissa, who has been playing flute for nine years. "He understands the instruments and what we need to do to get the sound to come out."