Old Bridge teen drums up experience of a lifetime

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By KATHY CHANG
Staff Writer

OLD BRIDGE — Put drumsticks in Nicholas Tucci’s hands and the Old Bridge High School freshman will rock out.

And that is exactly what he did when Blink 182’s drummer Travis Barker let him close out the rock band’s show at the BB&T Pavilion in Camden on Aug. 12 in front of more than 15,000 people.

“It was the best day ever,” Nicholas said with a smile as he sat with his mom Karin, dad Randy and grandmother Susan Lennick to share his story on Sept. 17.

Nicholas had wished to see his all-time favorite band Blink 182 through the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s New Jersey chapter, which granted his wish on his 14th birthday on Aug. 8.

Nicholas was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), which is a congenital heart birth defect that affects normal blood flow through the heart and left Nicholas with essentially half a heart.

He had surgery to create a new circulatory system when he was born and had two additional heart surgeries by the time he was 7 months old.

Karin Tucci said when they found out Nicholas was eligible for the Make-A-Wish Foundation program, they were ready to do a Walt Disney World trip to Orlando, Florida.

But after thinking about it, Karin Tucci said Nicholas was only 2 years old at the time and would probably not remember the trip.

“We decided to wait until he was older so he could decide,” she said.

Tucci said representatives from Make-A-Wish contacted the family, letting them know that her son’s wish was granted, which led them to the Samuel & Josephine Plumeri Wishing Place in Monroe. Four days later, a limo picked up Nicholas, his best friend Evan, and Randy and Karin for the show.

Tucci said originally Nicholas’ older sister Alexandra was supposed to go; however, the wish transpired so quickly Alexandra could not make it because of graduate school.

Members of Blink 182, A Day to Remember and All Time Low welcomed Nicholas. Blink 182 invited Nicholas on stage for a sound check.

After the sound check, Nicholas was able to hang out with members of Blink 182 and ask questions, take pictures and get autographs. Nicholas received a T-shirt with autographs, a number of guitar picks and an experience of a lifetime at the end of the show.

“I asked them what their favorite songs and albums were,” he said.

Nicholas also got to meet members of the other bands. Jack Barakat from All Time Low put a photo of him and Nicholas on his Snapchat, which Nicholas was over the moon about.

When the show started, Nicholas, his friend and parents watched the show on the side of the stage.

Then at the end, Barker summoned Nicholas to the stage to close out the show as confetti started falling.

Randy and Karin Tucci said that was a proud moment.

“We didn’t know that was going to happen,” Karin Tucci said. “By that time, we were so exhausted and it was a hot day.”

Randy Tucci added that the generosity of the band members was amazing.

Even the day after the concert, members of the bands “liked” Nicholas’ photos he had posted on Instagram.

Nicholas’ interest in music started when he would play the drums in his bouncy infant seat, watching his dad, who plays the bass guitar in a band.

“He’s a natural,” Karin Tucci said. “Music is his passion.”

Nicholas has four drum sets and performs with his dad at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Old Bridge.

“When he comes home from school, he decompresses on the drums,” his mother said. “He also tinkers around on the baby grand piano at the house and joined the guitar club at school.”

Nicholas is part of a rock shop at Musician’s Workshop in Manalapan. This year’s recital, which will feature two to three songs, will be played at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park.

Karin Tucci said when Nicholas was 5 years old, he told her that he wanted to be two things when he grew up — a famous rock star and an employee of McDonald’s.

“He loves both,” she said. “I told him he can become a famous rock star and buy McDonald’s.”

Karin Tucci said Nicholas has his obstacles with HLHS, which landed him in the hospital the week before school.

“The unknown is the hardest,” she said. “But he is your average normal teenager. He has his passions with a marvelous sense of humor.”

For more information on Make-A-Wish, visit http://nj.wish.org.

For more information about congenital heart defects, visit www.littlehearts.org or www.bighearts2littlehearts.com.

Contact Kathy Chang at [email protected].