Middle schooler Sparsh Shah of Iselin, New Jersey, left a crowd in tears with his stunning rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.
Sparsh has severe Osteogenesis imperfecta (or brittle bone syndrome), which is characterized by fragile bones that break easily. Despite having fractured bones 130 times in his life, the resilient teen says “nothing” can break his spirit — or stop him from singing.
“I’ve gone through my share of rough spots in life, but I don’t let it get to me,” Sparsh, an eighth grader at Iselin Middle School, tells PEOPLE. “I want to show people that no matter what happens in your life, you should never ever give up on your passion, and mine is singing and creating music!”
Sparsh says singing at the New York Knicks vs. Phoenix Suns game was like “a dream come true.”
“I was surprised by my own reaction when I saw the stage, I was like ‘Oh yeah, I got this!’ ” says Sparsh, who uses a wheelchair to get around. “I never imagined I’d be performing there.”
The teen met with the Knicks players, who took photos and congratulated him on his powerful voice and beautiful performance.
“I just feel like my reason for being is to sing, I was meant to sing, and inspire people through my music and message,” says Sparsh. “The cliff you call life is a thread for me because of my syndrome. I was actually born with 35 bone fractures, coming out of my mom’s womb — but look at me now! I’m performing at Madison Square Garden!”
The powerhouse vocalist, who has been singing since he “came out of the womb,” thrives on performing for others.
“I felt the power of music before I could even speak!” says Sparsh, who aspires to be a professional singer and start his own record-label one day. “My parents would put songs on the car speaker and I’d be humming along.
“Singing is a spiritual gift from God, because it allows me to express my feelings. There is so much beauty in singing, I want to inspire people. I think music was the calling that I got. It’s my life’s calling: It is, it was and it always will be.”
At the age of 6, Sparsh wrote his first song (with help from a friend) and, to date, has created 13 songs total.
The teen, who has been training in Indian classical for five years, incorporates the melodic structures and emotional impact of Raga music in his songs.
“I’m actually looking to coin or pioneer an entire new genre of music called ‘Raga-rap’ ” he says. “It’s Indian classical mixed with Indian rap.”
Sparsh’s major musical influence is rapper and “hero” Eminem, whom he says “has a story behind each lyric that sets him apart from modern rappers.”
His viral rendition of Eminem’s “Not Afraid” has garnered over 5 million views on YouTube.
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“I love his originality,” adds Sparsh.
And the 13-year-old is just getting started: This Saturday he’ll audition for season 12 of America’s Got Talent, and a TED Talk he gave in India will be released globally on YouTube in February.
“Look, people ask me what my dream or goal in life is, but I’m already living my dream,” says Sparsh. “I’m doing what I was destined to do.”
“But, I guess if I have a dream… it’s to sing in front of 1 billion people one day!”