"Good for a Guitar" Update #1

We've made it to the halfway point of the Good for a Guitar summer program, and I thought now would be a perfect time to update you all on what we’ve been doing at the Wesley Community Center.

Let me start by saying it's been amazing to see something go from an idea to a full-fledged reality. A lot of these ideas sounded great in theory – grab guitars, come up with a curriculum, teach kids to play, everyone has a great time — but there was no way of knowing how it would all shake out once we got going.

It truly takes a team to make it all happen. You all made the first part possible through the fundraiser at Jackson’s Watering Hole at the end of May, where we raised enough money to purchases 27 acoustic guitars for the program.

 Greg Bennett acoustic guitars provided by generous support of community 

Next came the teaching part. I enjoy interacting with kids – and people in general – but I don’t know the first thing about teaching someone how to play an instrument. In fact, I’ve never really had any formal instruction related to playing the guitar (which some may say explains a lot). Through mutual friends and happenstance, I met Shawn Parks, owner of Bo Jangles Music School, which is located on the second floor of one of our favorite local music shops, Rockin Robin. With very little persuasion, Shawn jumped on board with Good for a Guitar, all-in, pro bono. And so the curriculum and instruction came together. I cannot tell you how valuable Shawn’s been to getting this program off the ground, so just take my lack of words for it: it’s been huge.

 

When we began the program, I hadn’t any idea what to expect. Would anyone show up? If so, would they respond? Five weeks in, both of those questions have been answered with a resounding yes.

shawng4aginstruction

We have 20-24 kids showing up regularly to class every Monday and Wednesday at 1pm. Prior to our first class, most of these students hadn’t ever held a guitar. A week in, many of them were playing through an entire song, start to finish. They’ve been given four songs, so far. Everyone started with “The Eyes of Texas,” (Or “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” if you’re Burnt Orange-averse), then moved on to “Ode to Joy,” “Happy Birthday,” and finally, a rock riff that the kids will learn to play over a rhythm chord progression played by Shawn or myself.

One of the reasons we started this program was to allow kids the chance to experience something they might not otherwise experience. In that spirit, it also provides a challenge with which many kids might never have been presented and therefore, a chance to succeed at something; to see the direct results of working towards something.

In effort to keep this post short(er), I’ll end it here with a brief anecdote:

Up until last week, we were allowing late additions to join the class. Shawn would begin the lesson for the students who had been there the entire time and I’d pull the new arrivals – or anyone that was struggling – to the side to work with me, attempt to catch them up.

Last week I sat down with one such late addition to catch her up on everything we’d learned in the two-three weeks before she arrived. We went over the parts of the guitar: bridge, nut, frets, sound hole, and so on, talked about pitch, the names of strings, and began discussing tablature – a form of musical notation used to play guitar. I asked her if she wanted to start learning a song. I could sense her hesitancy, but she said “Sure” and we began working through the first song, note by note.

As she played, we discussed better ways to press the string and easier ways to hold the guitar. On she went, note by note. Eventually she was able to play through the entire first half of the song, without a single mistake. As soon as she finished, she looked up with a huge smile and said “Mister, I never thought I’d ever be able to do something like this!”

And that’s what Good for a Guitar is all about.