Eli Dykstra

Eli Dykstra of Boyden participates in the O’Keefe Music Foundation in Cincinnati. The 15-year-old sophomore at Boyden-Hull High School records songs and posts videos to the foundation’s website and on YouTube. He is the son of Dave and Jen Dykstra. Photo by Josh Harrell

Boyden teenager’s guitar-playing skill, videos are gaining national attention

BOYDENEli Dykstra isn’t your typical teenager.

The 15-year-old sophomore at Boyden-Hull High School in Hull is focused on building a career.

Eli has goals of becoming a professional guitarist, and he’s already well on his way to achieving that dream.

The Boyden teen became involved with the O’Keefe Music Foundation last year.

The Cincinnati-based organization enables young musicians to record their musical performances for free and posts the videos on YouTube and its website www.okmusicfoundation.org.

So far, Eli’s string skills can be viewed in three videos — “Until You Call on the Dark” by Danzig, which has achieved more than 21,500 views since it was posted on Feb. 28; “The Pot” Version 3 by Tool, which has garnered more than 66,050 views since it was posted on Aug. 10 and “The Pot” Version 4, which has gained more than 32,850 views since it was posted on the same date.

According to his mother, Jen Dykstra, Eli has seemingly always had a passion for the guitar.

“Guitar was practically his first word,” she said.

A 2-year-old Eli received a ukulele for Christmas from Jen and her husband, Dave.

“I thought it was a miniature guitar; I had no idea, but he played and sung songs with it,” Jen said. “We still have it.”

Eli went on to develop a greater interest for the guitar watching instrumentalists on YouTube and playing the video game “Guitar Hero.”

“What got me into ‘Guitar Hero’ was YouTube. I would just watch YouTube videos all the time,” he said. “This game came out, and I was like, ‘Oh, my God, I can play against these other guitar people I watch on YouTube.’ I beat the game in like a week.”

Eli received his first electric guitar, a Squier, from his grandfather, Randy Dau, for his ninth birthday.

He now has four other six-string electric guitars — another Squier, a B.C. Rich ASM Pro, B.C. Rich Mockingbird and B.C. Rich Gunslinger — as well as an ESP LTD MH-417 seven-string electric guitar and an acoustic guitar.

His two favorites are the B.C. Rich ASM Pro and the ESP LTD MH-417. 

YouTube also is what led to Eli becoming involved with the O’Keefe Music Foundation.

Three years ago, he saw a video of the organization’s musicians performing a cover version of “46 and 2” by Tool that went viral. He continued to follow the foundation online and frequently told his parents about the videos.

He showed Jen a cover version of another Tool song, “Sober,” last spring, which got Jen thinking about how children become involved with the productions.

She sent a Facebook message, then an e-mail to the foundation, and it replied with a link to apply online. Jen and Eli filled out the application — which consisted of Eli’s name, age, guardian and a link to his work.

“I didn’t think anything of it. You contact so many people, and you get nothing,” Jen said. “I bet it was a good six weeks before they got back to us and said, ‘Sorry we got back to you so late, but we’d love to have Eli be a part of something.’”

She was required to send back three references for Eli and after checking them out, the foundation again contacted her back, saying it had an idea for a video of “The Pot,” asking if Eli would be interested.

“Never in a million years did I think he would be one of those kids,” Jen said. “I honestly didn’t think he could be a part of it, because I thought they just took kids from the Cincinnati area, but they take people from all over the world for different projects.”

The foundation sends e-mails to Eli, letting him know which projects it would like for him to be involved with. He gets a demo, then researches each song online.

He then will record his part on electric guitar at home and send it in to see if it’s what they want.

Eli’s first project was “Until You Call on the Dark.”

Those at O’Keefe asked him to send in a guitar solo, saying if they liked what he recorded, they would put it in a stop-motion animated music video. His recording was selected to be included.

Eli then traveled to Cincinnati to record a professional track and film the video for “The Pot,” in November 2016.

He has even more videos on the horizon.

Eli went to Nashville in April to record “It’s Coming Down” by Danzig at Lattitude Studio South.

“It’s a really significant studio for me, because one of my favorite bands, Megadeth, recorded in it, so I’m like, ‘No way,’” he said. “It’s funny, because almost exactly a year earlier, my mom had bought me the Megadeth vinyl — the album that was recorded in that studio — and I got to go there to record. It was pretty surreal.”

He traveled to Cincinnati a month later to record a full production music video of Slayer’s “Raining Blood.” Dave will make an appearance in the video as well.

In July, Eli went to Cincinnati again to record Danzig’s “End of Time.”

O’Keefe plans on coming out with a Danzig cover album, and Eli has been involved in photo shoots for the cover and back art of the CD.

The videos take anywhere from two to seven hours to record.

O’Keefe is staffed by volunteers, so the Dykstras are not sure when Eli’s next video is slated to be released. “The Pot” came out nine months after Eli was recorded and filmed for the video.

“He might be graduated from high school when those other ones come out,” Jen said.

Eli finds his inspiration from a slew of musicians, although he most looks up to Zakk Wylde, former guitarist for Ozzy Osborne and founder of Black Label Society.

“My first experience hearing Zakk Wylde was on ‘Guitar Hero.’ I dueled him, and I kicked his butt. That was the best thing ever,” Eli said. “One time, Dad was like, ‘You haven’t even heard of Zakk Wylde yet,’ and I was like, ‘What? I beat him in ‘Guitar Hero,’ so he pulled out all the Ozzy Osborne records.”

Eli even had the chance to meet his hero three years ago in Las Vegas.

“It was out of total chance,” he said. “It was super cool.”

Black Label Society was performing that evening, but the Dykstras were not planning on attending the show as it was only open to people ages 18 and over, and Eli was only 12 years old.

The trio was walking by a coffee shop in Paris, a Las Vegas hotel and casino, when Eli suddenly stopped in his tracks. He spotted Wylde in front of him, as did Jen.

“It was funny, too, because Dad’s like, ‘Go talk to him, and I’m like, ‘No, I can’t; I really can’t,’” Eli said.

“It’s been the only time I’ve seen him star struck, because he’s met quite a few people,” Jen said.

In fact, he also met members of the band REO Speedwagon at the airport during the same trip.

“That was the best vacation I’ve ever had — ever,” Eli said.

He already has open for bands as far away as Omaha, NE; Sioux Falls, SD; and Worthington, MN. When he performs, he does so by himself, with metal music backtracks playing alongside his guitar skills.

His career goal since he was young is to perform at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

“Otherwise, I’d love to find a band. I’d love to tour. I’ve just always found a fascination with that,” Eli said. “I want to do this. I want to play heavy metal music, get sweaty and live on a bus for a month.”

At a Glance:

Name: Eli Dykstra

Age: 15

Residence: Boyden

Education: Sophomore at Boyden-Hull High School in Hull

Family: Parents, Dave and Jen Dykstra.

Interests: Playing guitar and drums.


  • Eli Dykstra posts his upcoming schedule and videos of his performances on his Facebook and YouTube pages, Eli Dykstra Rocks.