Daniel Bowman

It’s not unusual for a teenager to pick up an electric guitar and fantasize about becoming a rock star. What is unusual is when he grabs a guitar and fantasizes about building one himself. Daniel Bowman carved that fantasy into reality, earning a SkillsUSA gold medal in return.

“As a freshman in high school, I was just drawn to the guitar,” the 19-year-old explains. “I play every second I can. It’s a big passion of mine.”

Bowman discovered another passion that year: carpentry. Like his discovery of the guitar, “there was something about [carpentry] that made me fall in love with it, working with wood and with my hands in general,” he says.

At Diman Regional Vocational Technical School in Fall River, Mass., Bowman’s first two years in Emanuel Botelho’s carpentry class were spent learning the fundamentals. But by his junior year, he realized he’d developed something else as a SkillsUSA member. “SkillsUSA gave me that drive, helped me become more confident,” he says.

That confidence helped Bowman make the decision to combine his two passions. First, he’d use his carpentry skills to build his own guitar. Second, he’d take his creation to a state competition in which students present a display showcasing the skills learned in their training area.

Bowman was obsessed, spending time after school and his entire spring vacation working on the guitar. He soon realized that two passions he’d once viewed as separate influences on his life were now making beautiful music together.

“There were so many things I learned [in class] that I could apply to the guitar,” he explains. “The guitar neck, for example, that’s pretty much a joint — a pocket where two pieces of wood meet together — so that really related to doing wood joints.”

The student credits Botelho with more than just carpentry lessons. “He helped me through everything. When I think I can’t do something, he finds a way to influence me to do it. He’s been a big part of my life.”

Bowman’s design (pictured in the photo at left), a telecaster based on a model used by Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, was the talk of the state competition and won a gold medal. He’s kept his carpentry skills sharp in other areas, too, recently winning a bronze in his SkillsUSA district Cabinetmaking competition.

“In a [career and technical] program, you’re pushed more,” says Bowman, who’s now a senior. “It makes you more reliable, helps you plan things better. SkillsUSA made me want to reach toward the top, to stand out.” And rock on.