Grayson Haver Currin

Meric Long had been playing guitar for three years when he realized the instrument could be more than his hobby — it could be his way of communicating, too, of feeling he had something important to say.

At a high-school friend's house party, Long, then an anxious California teenager, smoked too much weed and meandered on an acoustic guitar for several uninterrupted hours. He assumed he was improvising for no one. But people listened, captivated by the sudden volubility of a 16-year-old who considered himself awkward and uneasy.