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Thursday, November 02, 2017

Guitars Not Guns aims to refine music skills – and life skills – through music lessons | Monterey County Weekly

"On a Saturday morning at the Marina Teen Center, nine kids with acoustic guitars sit in a circle, their eyes trained toward sheets of music on the floor in front of them. They play a segment of music in unison as they warm up, but it sounds like a bit of a dissonant garble" continues Monterey County Weekly.

Guitar instructor Amy Novak Warren works with a student at the Marina Teen Center, one of eight locations for Guitars Not Guns.

Photo: Nic Coury 

Amy Novak Warren, the lead instructor, kneels down to assist a young girl who’s having trouble distinguishing the fourth string from the fifth. This class, a mixture of intermediate and advanced students, is learning the chords of “House of the Rising Sun.”

“If you can’t do a double-stop because your fingers are too small, do an A bar,” Warren advises, describing a technique for pressing multiple strings at once.

Each student gets one-on-one assistance from an instructor as needed. Glen Bell and Ben Bruce work alongside Warren, while Tim Patchin teaches the younger beginners in another room.

Later on, Warren requests the young guitarists play “Stand by Me.” They perform in near-perfect unison.

“I wish this existed 12 years ago,” says Bell, who channeled his passion for guitar into performing at open mics while growing up in Pacific Grove. “Me and my friend wanted to learn, but private lessons were – and are – expensive.”

Bell learned guitar at Pacific Grove High School and later Monterey Peninsula College, and now gives back as a volunteer instructor.

The program is run by the Monterey County chapter of Guitars Not Guns, a national nonprofit, with a local division that launched seven years ago. Since then, the group has given out some 1,650 guitars and taught 1,600 students. (Some students get instrument upgrades.)

The lessons and instruments are free to all GNG students. The agreement is that if they stick with it, students get to keep the guitars after they graduate. The Monterey County chapter supports lessons at eight locations in Salinas and the Monterey Peninsula drawing on a $20,000 annual budget.

What sets the Marina program apart from other locations in the locat chapter – or those of the 27 chapters across the U.S. and Canada – is that students may extend their learning experience. While the standard for Guitars Not Guns is an eight-week course in guitar fundamentals, students in Marina meet weekly year-round, and can return year after year.

This lets students like 14-year-old Alex Carrillo of Seaside fine-tune the skills he started learning two years ago.

“Playing the guitar is both challenging and relaxing,” Carillo says. “With this program I’ve found that kids can follow each other in a positive way, unlike peer pressure and drugs.”

Source: Monterey County Weekly