'It was a life-changing moment': How Ed Sheeran helped Dubai kids believe in their dreams

A total of 19 kids got the golden opportunity of having a one-on-one interaction with the artist


Laraib Anwer

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Published: Sun 21 Jan 2024, 12:55 PM

Last updated: Tue 23 Jan 2024, 9:02 AM

Sitting in the presence of your favourite celebrity, and speaking to him while he signs your precious album or merch, is a dream for many. But for these UAE-based kids, it became their reality.

The man himself, Ed Sheeran, swung by The Art of Guitar, a musical instrument store in Dubai over the weekend. Many fans across the UAE got to see the singer perform live on stage during his Mathematics tour, but these students got a chance to have a one-on-one interaction with him.

From the little to the not-so-little ones, Khaleej Times reached out to two such students to break down the mind-boggling moment they met their idol.

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For Molly, a 17-year-old Kiwi resident in the UAE, meeting her idol and playing the guitar with him still seems unreal. The teen has been a fan of Ed since the age of five. "The first concert I went to was his '+ tour' in Wellington, New Zealand and I’ve adored his music ever since. So much so that my parents bought me a Sheeran guitar from Art of Guitar for my 16th birthday."

Her favourite Ed Sheeran song is Afterglow, which she was lucky enough to hear live at the Sevens Stadium on Friday.

"It was a life changing moment and I am so grateful to my teacher Mahmoud who made all this possible for me," said Molly.

Molly with Mahmoud
Molly with Mahmoud

She credits her academy for giving her this opportunity and creating a friendly and comfortable environment to help them pursue their dreams.

Rick Vlemmiks, the owner of Art of Guitar, expressed their desire to encourage the kids to practice and become better. And what better way than inviting their beloved artist! "We spoke at length to Ed about this and he is as passionate as we are about students learning and developing. So for him to decide to do it was an easy decision - and it was not a commercial decision or proposal," said Rick.

The store that was born four years ago, and is located in the Courtyard in Al Quoz, is an exclusive distributor and retailer of Sheeran guitars, and so inviting him over seemed like a natural fit. "In fact, many of our students are actually learning guitar on Ed's very own guitars."

For Molly, music is a form of escapism and a way to express any and every form of emotion. That is why she felt drawn to Ed Sheeran's music.

In videos shared by the artist and the store, children were seen staring in awe as the singer entered the space and joined them, while singing nostalgic hits like Perfect and Shape of You. Later on the little ones huddled around him as he signed their caps and guitars.

Apart from bonding musically together, the students got to ask their burning questions. Hoping to become a songwriter or musician someday, Molly knew she had to get expert advice from the star. "He shared with me his experiences in song writing and how, even if in his month-long studio session he produces one good song, it’s still worth the whole process. This gave me more confidence and faith in my songwriting and he reiterated to me that it is the love for songwriting that drives him, and I could really relate to that."

'My dream could come true'

The singer's presence itself in the room was enough for the aspiring artists to believe that their dreams could come true. For 11-year-old Jordanian resident Jude Swailem, this sentiment was close to his heart.

"Meeting him made it feel possible," said the Year 7 student, who has been learning at Art of Guitar since four to five months. His favourite Sheeran song - Perfect.

"I have been learning a variety of songs to enhance my abilities. The answers to the questions I asked Ed Sheeran inspired me greatly and I started to play more guitar after meeting him."

Parents and students alike have been messaging their teachers about how they haven't put their guitars down since they met Ed. "We expect this to continue and we'll see a constant uplift both in the quantity of students practicing and also in the quality of their practice routines," said owner Rick.

Rick Vlemmiks
Rick Vlemmiks

A total of 19 students were able to attend this gathering. As for who would be permitted to attend - that was a tough choice. "It was only kids learning Sheeran songs that were in the original pot as they had to play to him - and even then, we had to choose names randomly out of a hat and there were still many students learning Sheeran songs that didn’t get to come."

The store which is the largest retailer of rare and vintage musical instruments in the Middle East hopes to invite more musicians in the future and spread the message of ambition, hope and the drive of never giving up on their dreams amongst young learners.

Ed's adventures in the desert

As fans recover from concert hangover after a spectacular two-day show in Dubai by Ed Sheeran, the star didn't miss a minute to do his own little exploring while in the UAE.

The British singer headed over to Abu Dhabi's Empty Quarter after his first concert day in Dubai on January 19, where he experienced the UAE's sunny skies and vast dunes. Not only that, he also met a camel! Scroll down to watch the video.

Photo: Screengrab
Photo: Screengrab

In a video shared on his Instagram, Ed spoke about his thoughts on the desert. "I don't think the desert was made for ginger people," he joked on camera.

Remembering his time at the concert, the star had only good to say about his fans. "I have never felt an energy like that."

"They were loud in the points they needed to be loud and quiet in the point they needed to be quiet. It was such an amazing show."

On Tiktok, the singer posted a funny video following a latest trend among GenZ, which he began by applying sunscreen as they Sun shone down on him.

His tips on three things to bring to the desert - an umbrella, a bottle of water and of course — a camel.


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