Our Story

From Premature Birth to Real-Life Wonder

2000 - 2012 (Surgeries 1- 26)

Our journey started with Peter's Birth in October 2000.  He was born at 30 weeks and diagnosed with Goldenhar Syndrome.  His Mom, Dede, kept a daily journal to update family and friends.  This became known as "Pete's Diary" during the 102 days he was in the NICU.

The book Wonder by R. J. Palacio was published in 2012.  It's about a boy with a craniofacial syndrome and his struggles starting a new school. Peter read the book and felt that the fictional character, Auggie, was a hero he could look up to.

In March 2013, Peter brought Auggie to life during a staged reading of excerpts hosted by Santa Monica Public Library. Dede and Peter were also invited to speak at a school with students who had recently read the book. 

Becoming a Motivational Speaker

2013 - 2018 (Surgeries 27-28)

As Wonder became part of many 5th-6th grade curriculums, Dede and Peter received invitations to speak at more schools.  They worked with Children's Craniofacial Association to champion the #ChooseKind movement inspired by the book.  From 2012-2018, the two spoke with over 50,000 students about the importance of inclusion and kindness.

Wonder's popularity peaked in 2017 with the release of the movie starring Jacob Tremblay, Julia Roberts, and Owen Wilson.  Our family was invited to visit the set during filming, and we attended the world premiere in Hollywood.

Picking Up a Guitar in High School

2015 - 2020 (Surgeries 29-35)

Peter picked up a guitar for the first time in May 2015.  As he  became more skilled at playing, Dede integrated music into their assemblies.  This began a transition from #ChooseKind to #RockYourLife & #AmplifyKindness.

Dede believes that confident students don't bully peers.  She changed their presentation to emphasize not just kindness but also self-acceptance, courage, and confidence.  Leading by example and a sense of humor, Peter encourages all ages to embrace what makes them different and to have the courage to pursue their passion.

Peter had some of his most difficult surgeries during high school.  Playing guitar was good therapy as he endured lengthy recoveries.  He also became a student at School of Rock Libertyville during this time.

After a year of self-teaching from YouTube videos, Peter was thrilled when a local School of Rock franchise opened nearby.  There he was invited to play live gigs at venues throughout Lake County, Chicago, and Milwaukee.  In 2019, he earned a spot on the School of Rock All Stars Tour.

Pivoting in a Pandemic

2020 - 2021 (Surgery 36)

With in-person speaking shut down, Dede and Peter focused their efforts on social media.  Peter began sharing more guitar covers, and Dede shared more of their story and motivational content online.  They dedicated their efforts to making the Pete's Diary social channels 100% inspirational and uplifting.

People on Tik Tok and Instagram are drawn to Peter's talent on the guitar.  His enthusiasm for playing attracts followers, and the motivational content and humor motivates thousands to live their best life.  Dede and Peter's efforts earned Pete's Diary a spot on Music Radar's Top Online Guitar Personalities of 2020.

Peter released his first single called "Can't Stop Staring" during the pandemic.  It's a bluesy, acoustic song that was recorded at home. 

New & Ongoing Projects 


Peter's autobiography How I Learned To Rock My Life released on January 16, 2022. Order an autographed copy on our website or look for it on your favorite bookseller website in both print and e-book formats. It's a best seller on Amazon!

Peter Dankelson Band released their first single, Girl In A Magazine, on April 15, 2022. Their debut rock album All Screwed Up will release on May 20, 2022 on all streaming platforms. The CD is now available for pre-order.

Peter's Rockin' Ear, a picture book about self-acceptance will be published in September 2022.

Peter and Dede are available for speaking engagements. Click here to learn more and book.

Peter is available for touring, session work, and guest appearances. His band is playing public and private gigs in Lake County, Illinois. Click here to contact us.