Guitar Club at the National Music Centre (NMC) is a place where Calgary teens learn to play the guitar, make friends and develop their self-confidence.
“I love going to Guitar Club! I get a chance to learn new things every time I go, jam with other students and express myself,” says participant Kyra Kelly.
The NMC’s Guitar Club is a free after-school drop-in program that takes place on Thursdays from September to June at the National Music Centre (NMC). Run by volunteer musicians from the community, Guitar Club is open to youth ages 13–19 of all levels and abilities. Anywhere from 12 to 20 students a week take part, playing a variety of musical genres from rock ’n’ roll and punk to classical.
“Generally they want to learn Guns N’ Roses, Metallica and all that stuff they’re into—and that’s cool,” says National Music Centre education manager Kate Schutz. “It’s about learning to play guitar and performance skills, but mostly it’s about community, developing self-confidence and having an opportunity to have a positive relationship with an adult.”
The NMC worked closely with Discovering Choices—an alternative high school program within the Calgary Board of Education—to develop Guitar Club, which Schutz hopes will be the first of many after-school programs offered by the NMC for youth in Calgary. Mike Good, a teacher with Discovering Choices’ downtown location, had approached the NMC looking for a place for a couple of students to play guitar—“A place where they could be loud, because the school is in an office building,” Schutz explains.
Now going into its third year, Guitar Club provides guitars for students who don’t have a guitar of their own, as well as snacks each week and a hot meal donated by Grumans Delicatessen once a month. The NMC tends to see a lot of at-risk youth because of its location in inner city Calgary, says Schutz, who describes Guitar Club as a safe place where students can build positive relationships with a mentor.
“The thing I think kids get out of it is a sense of community,” says CBE teacher Travis McClelland, a guitarist and volunteer teacher with Guitar Club. “They support each other and they have fun.”
A good example of that, he adds, is Gig Night, an annual event in June that everyone looks forward to. Gig night offers students an opportunity to play on stage at the National Music Centre, backed by a band. It is a free event that students can invite family members and friends to. “They get up and play one or two songs. They all cheer for each other; they all support each other. That’s what Guitar Club is about—that sense of community,” McClelland says.
All teens are welcome in Guitar Club if they have an interest in music. Participants range from beginners to experienced players who help mentor the beginners.
The NMC is always looking for adult volunteers to teach at Guitar Club, especially female mentors, since more than half of the students attending Guitar Club are girls.
“It’s really important to the NMC that all people have access to music,” Schutz says. “We are very grateful to our donors and to the public who support our programming, so we can offer things like this for free.”
To volunteer with Guitar Club or donate instruments and gear, please visit www.nmc.ca/musicians.