Our Kind of People

South Mississippi teen has a way with the guitar

For a Picayune teenager, going to work is not a pain. In fact, he said when you do what you love, it's doesn't feel like he has to work hard for the money.

Santiago Segura, known by friends and family as Santi, can be found playing his guitar on Main Street during Second Saturday in Bay St. Louis or busking in Jackson Square in New Orleans. The 13-year-old also jams at open mic night at Fatty's, a Picayune restaurant.

"Everywhere he plays, he draws crowds," said Santi's stepfather, Robert Hanson. "People are amazed at the talent level at his age. Even escaping his age. He's got it."

And as Santi's fingers strum chords, people drop cash into his tip jar.

"He makes a lot of money," said Hanson, who has raised Santi as his son since he and his mother, Allison Hanson, immigrated to the United States from Colombia in January 2004. "He's financing himself, which is pretty admirable for a 13-year-old."

A month ago, Santi made $400 in less than six hours. He's recently used some of his earnings to buy a new amplifier and guitar pedal.

He said he got into playing the guitar in November 2014.

"We had just come back from Thanksgiving vacation," he said. "I just saw it (guitar) lying there and I decided to pick it up and try to play it."

Hanson has been a musician for more than 35 years, so it was normal for instruments to be lying around the house. He played in a band called Blackwater and has released an album as a solo artist. Before Hurricane Katrina in 2005, he owned a music studio on Coleman Avenue in Waveland.

Santi was learning chords within a couple of weeks of picking up the guitar, Hanson said. Within three months, he was playing fluently. By June 2015, Hanson said, his son was better than he is.

"He just kind of took off like a wildflower," he said. "We realized he had a special gift."

Santi said the guitar feels good in his hands.

"It happened rather smoothly," he said. "I wasn't great at the beginning, but I picked it up without too much difficulty. It just feels natural. I just follow my hands."

He took lessons at Dave Knorr's School of Music at Pinkston Music in Biloxi.

"He was as bad as a bone," Hanson said. "Everybody was amazed at how quickly he learned."

Now, Hanson said, Santi can listen to a song on YouTube and play it in just a couple of minutes. Hanson said he and his wife will help their son pursue a career in music in any way they can. For now, he'll continue to play local gigs and try to market himself.

Santi said he's made a YouTube page, although he hasn't posted a video to it yet.

He likes to play hard rock tunes such as "Stairway to Heaven" and "Welcome to the Jungle," but he said he listens to any kind of music that has a "good guitar."

"I listen to a lot of stuff. I just kind of listen to everything," he said.

He said he hopes to find more people his age who play instruments because he eventually wants to start a band.