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Dan + Shay bassist donates 30 guitars to Pittsburgh-area schools

| Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, 12:01 a.m.
Dustin Hook, bassist for country band Dan + Shay
Rob Norris
Dustin Hook, bassist for country band Dan + Shay
Shaler Area Middle School eighth-graders Connor Schneck, Erika Kenst, Madeline Turner and Alyssa Hillwig
Shaler Area Middle School eighth-graders Connor Schneck, Erika Kenst, Madeline Turner and Alyssa Hillwig

Dustin Hook, country band Dan + Shay's bassist, decided on his 30th birthday in November 2017 that he wanted to give back in commemoration of his celebration.

So, the Wexford resident used his Fender endorsement connections to have 30 new guitars — Fender Stratocaster electric guitars and Fender Precision Bass electric bass guitars — shipped from a Los Angeles warehouse to Pittsburgh-area middle and high school music departments.

Hook, who also works as a Wexford RE/MAX agent, said that he is pleased to enhance music education.

“I know music is what brought me a lot of happiness growing up, and I know it brings others happiness, too. So, I thought it was cool to share that, and I just hope that can be a positive influence on a couple of kids at each school, whether they want to just jam out on it or start a band or play it in class.”

Hook donated a guitar set to Shaler Area Middle School.

Ellen Spondike, middle school music teacher, said the gift was “a total surprise and unbelievably generous.” The school's jazz band and orchestra will play the instruments, and the music program will incorporate the instruments into its curriculum. The students are excited to play the guitars, she said.

Hook has toured with Dan + Shay since 2014. Vocalist and songwriter Dan Smyers and Hook played baseball and were in bands together while growing up in the North Hills. They will perform with Darius Rucker in March in Australia. Hook considers performing this July on the Back to Us Tour with Rascal Flatts at Burgettstown's KeyBank Pavilion to be a “dream come true.”

“I've gone to (the former) Star Lake Amphitheatre when I was a kid, you know, never thought I would have a chance to actually go up on stage and play in front of that many people myself one day. So, it's just a major blessing for me, and I'm very lucky to do it.”

The band was set to record a “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” appearance Feb. 28.

“She's such a sweetheart to everybody and you know makes you feel like you are at home and, meanwhile, she probably meets thousands of people every week,” Hook said of his two prior show visits. “They just take really good care of you, and it's just cool to walk around the studios and see how it all operates behind the scenes.”

He attended North Allegheny School District until eighth grade, then transferred to Pine-Richland High School. He left school when he was 16 to play with rock band My American Heart on the Vans Warped Tour, but took correspondence courses to graduate on time in 2006. He said the band “ran around the world together,” playing 250 shows a year for almost five years.

Afterward, Hook started working in real estate. He initially took a “trial and error” approach after Smyers approached him about joining Dan + Shay because Hook didn't want to quit his business.

“I flew 92 times last year, just to make all the shows, but also to get back here to keep the business straight and make sure our clients are properly serviced. It's a lot of back and forth, but it's amazing what you can do with an internet connection and a telephone in real estate.”

Hook said that his advice for students interested in music is that, “like anything in life, there's going to be highs and lows, but the biggest thing is that I stuck with it and was passionate about it. Even if you don't pursue music professionally, it's something that's good for the brain, good for the soul.”

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