Feature: Two Real Heroes

Heroes come in all shapes, sizes and ages. You can do something extraordinary at nine or thirty-nine as long as you believe.

Teagan Stedman believed that he could make a difference, and he did. When he found out that his friend Alex had cancer, he felt like he had to do something. So the nine-year-old started Shred Kids Cancer, and he organized a charity battle of the bands at the Roxy benefiting Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA and The Pediatric Cancer Research foundation.

He called the Roxy to set up the event, and eventually he garnered support from sponsors such as Rock Nation and Guitar Center. As a surprise, some important rock stars popped up to judge Teagan’s contest. One of them was Shavo Odadjian (System of a Down/Achozen).

With a big smile, Shavo reminisces about the moment he first saw Teagan. «When I met him, I hugged him! I gave him some signed System picture discs, and he was like, ‘This is the coolest!’ I said, ‘You’re the coolest thing in the world right now!’ It was so amazing.»

Teagan just wanted to help his buddy out, and the benefit was a smash success. In addition to Shavo, the celebrity judge panel included Jesse Johnson (The Time) and Dhani Harrison (thenewno2). Even with how extraordinary the event was, Teagan remains humble and soft-spoken. Charity work is just something that he does.

He explains, «When I met Alex, I got inspired because I felt really bad for him. I wanted to help him and the other kids who have cancer, so I started Shred Kids Cancer. Alex plays bass and loves music so I thought a Battle of the Bands would be good.»

The Battle of Bands was perfect, and the turnout was phenomenal. Alex even jammed «Sweet Child O’ Mine» with Teagan’s band Slatr. «I felt really happy when I saw everything come together,» continues Teagan. «It happened exactly how it was supposed to. Rock Nation and Guitar Center were the best sponsors they could ever be. I really want to help people out everywhere.»

After the benefit, Shavo is still wide-eyed at the whole experience.

«The fact that I’m helping people means so much to me,» he says. «It blows me away that this event was thrown by a nine-year-old. If my presence can help people, I will be there. Who wouldn’t believe in the cause of a kid having cancer and his friend putting this together? That’s like the kids on South Park building a ladder to Heaven to see Kenny [Laughs]. Of course, I wanted to be a part of it.»

He continues, «If you have a gram of good bone in your body, you’d have to do this. I was inspired by this little nine-year-old bringing everyone together; that’s something I usually do! I’ve got a lot of soft spots. I like to help. Everyone calls that ‘giving back.’ To me, it’s a way of life. If I can help, I will help. It’s not a matter of, ‘Oh, I’ve got it, so I’ll give it back.’ There’s no obligation whatsoever. Whether or not System was System, I would still help people—guaranteed. I’m always going to give. It’s not about what I get or what I have.»

The excitement was beyond palpable at the Roxy. It’s funny for Shavo because the club is still a home away from home for him. He laughs, «I felt a lot of emotions the second I walked in. That’s the first club I ever played at—May 28th, 1995. 14 years later, I’m judging a cancer benefit there. I was even sitting at the table I had my parents sit at during my first show! I was so amped on this little kid. The only thing I didn’t do was put him on my shoulders and run around [Laughs].»

This past February, the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) awarded Shavo with a community hero award for being a mentor. The kids nominated him, and he accepted it with his Achozen partner RZA (Wu-Tang Clan) in tow. «It was better than winning the Grammy, no joke. The Grammy is just industry; it’s corporate. This is from the kids. This shows you that a difference happened. The best thing in the world is when you can get someone to notice a difference. I was really emotional when I went up there. It was an amazing feeling. I know where I came from. The kids nominated me, and it was the best.»

Shavo’s even ready for more though, and he’ll never stop helping. Recently, he even spoke out against pet euthanasia on Raul Levy Jr.’s Flaunt My Pet, appearing with his pup, Chomp. «Everyone’s capable of greatness. I’ve already succeeded in my head before I do something, period. Success has nothing to do with money or anything material. Success is inside. What I did with Shred Kids Cancermade me feel complete. That’s success.»

He’s also got urSESSION.com, his online musicians’ community and record label, which continues to flourish. «I want to teach, help and raise awareness,» he says smiling. «urSESSION.com is a platform for that. I’m at a really strong point in my life. I’m in my mid-30s, and I think I’m a pretty cool role mode [Laughs]. I’m not nervous or scared about it. I really want to help kids. I’m working with this band called Chameleon Conductor. My little brother and my little cousin are in the band, and I’m putting them on urSESSION.com. The youngest member is 19, and the oldest is 24. I’m mentoring them about life in general. First you gain the knowledge then you gain the wisdom after that you gain the understanding.»

As for the future of urSESSION.com, Shavo’s right hand man Kevin Potts puts it best, «We’re taking digital media to a place it’s never been before.»

If anyone can do it, it’s Shavo and his team of heroes.

—Rick Florino