Monday, December 16, 2013

Guitars Not Guns Monterey County - Year in Review

By Steve Vagnini
The Monterey County Chapter of Guitars Not Guns will hold a graduation ceremony for two more classes this Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at the Rancho Cielo Youth Campus in Salinas, California.  Volunteer instructors Jim Hansen, Jeffrey Richman and David West will present certificates to students in the Silver Star Youth Program and the Drummond Culinary Academy that have also participated in the free music program.  13 students will receive their certificates and a guitar and will perform songs that they have learned during their 8 week course.   

During the last year 215 students in Monterey County have received free guitar instruction and guitars.  In addition to classes at Rancho Cielo, the local chapter of Guitars Not Guns have held 20 classes this year at the Castroville Middle School; at King City High School; at the Marina Youth Center; at Marina High School; at Fairview Middle School in Gonzales; with Community Partnership for Youth in Seaside, at the Boys & Girls Club in Seaside; and at the Alisal Center for Fine Arts and the Salvation Army in Salinas.  New classes are in the works in Soledad, in South County with CHISPA and in Big Sur.   

The goal of Guitars Not Guns is to help prevent violence in schools and on the streets by providing at-risk youth with focus and self-actualization.  Guitars not Guns aims to empower children with the most fundamental tool to succeed: Believe in yourself and you can accomplish anything. Using music as a catalyst we encourage children and teens to use their creativity to foster personal development and to help divert them from self-destructive influences such as drugs, alcohol and gang-related activities. By providing free guitars and lessons we hope to engage their creative potential and help them achieve their dreams. Our programs are for children and teens ages 8 – 18. 

The Monterey County Chapter of Guitars not Guns is an all-volunteer organization.  All funds go to the purchase of guitars, instructional books, certificates and a pizza party for the graduates.  The Chapter, based in Sand City, annually receives proceeds from the West End Celebration and have received grants from the Monterey Peninsula Foundation the last two years and also previously from the Arts Council for Monterey County.   

Last year at the West End Celebration an autographed Epiphone electric guitar signed by Joe Bonamassa was raffled off and raised $2,500.  Guitars Not Guns students performed on the Main Stage of the West End Celebration and live on KPIGs Please Stand By Sunday morning show which was broadcast on the internet to the world from TCK Gallery in Sand City.   

The founders of Guitars Not Guns are Ray and Louise Nelson. They became foster parents in 1992 and it was through this experience that Ray decided to provide foster kids with guitars and lessons. He began asking friends and strangers for their used guitars to pass along to foster kids. This act of kindness became his passion and as a result there are classrooms across the USA and in Canada. 

GNG's goal is to help stop violence in schools and on the streets by providing a music program for at-risk teens and other deserving children. We want to divert as many children as possible from the self-destructive behaviors of drugs, alcohol and crime connected to gang activity. By providing children and teens with guitars and lessons we hope to engage their creative potential. It's all about helping underprivileged kids and teens. 

On June 27, 2000 "Guitars Not Guns" became a federally exempt 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. All donations are tax deductible.

More Graduations

Salvation Army Salinas

King City Graduation

Alisal Center for fine Arts

Boys and Girls Club Seaside

Friday, December 13, 2013

Highland Elementary Graduation

Congratulations to the students who completed the basic eight course and thanks to the instructors, Ben Bruce, Joe Braun and Ed Tobin for their efforts.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Guitars Not Guns Annual Ebay Charity Auctions

The Guitars Not Guns national program will be conducting an auction on Ebay starting on November 27 to raise money to support chapters like ours all across the country.  There will be a number of artist signed guitars, accessories and other memorabilia auctioned. 

Artists signed guitars are from Sting, Ann & Nancy Wilson of Heart, Sammy Hagar, Rick Derringer, Leon Russell, Frank Hannon and Jack Gibson.  A complete list of the items along with pictures and links to the Ebay auction site may be found at:

Here are pictures of Nancy (top) and Ann Wilson signing the Gibson J-45 acoustic electric guitar donated by the Gibson Foundation back in August up in San Francisco.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

West End Celebration Performances

Two groups of kids from Monterey County chapter of Guitars Not Guns performed at this year's West End Celebration hosted by Sand City.  The group from King City performed on KPIG's Please Stand By program and later on the main stage.

A second group of students from the Marina, Seaside and Salinas programs joined together to perform Frere Jacques and Pipeline.  Following the group performances, Matt Acuna from Salinas performed Sleepwalk accompanied by his instructor Jeff Richman.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

West End Celebration 2013

The weekend of August 23, 24 and 25, 2013 Sand City will host their annual West End Celebration.  The weekend starts Friday night with Kick-off party held at Carmel Stone Imports featuring Tommy Castro and Red Beans and Rice.  On Saturday and Sunday there will be free live music on two stages and art displays throughout town.  Some of the musicians/groups scheduled to perform are Moonalice, Chris Cain, Mother Hips, Mike Beck, Lightfighters, Casey Frazier and others to be announced.

Guitars Not Guns Monterey County appreciates the support that the Sand City makes to our program and we encourage you to come out and enjoy a weekend of music and art.

This year we were fortunate to have Joe Bonamassa donate a signed Epiphone guitar that will be raffled off at 5PM on Sunday August 25th.

More details about the West End Celebration may be found at:

Rancho Cielo Arts Festival

Back in late May, Rancho Cielo held an Arts Festival and invited the Guitars Not Guns students to perform.  Unfortunately the normal teachers, Jim Hanson and Jeff Richman were out of town for the Memorial Day holiday so Marina teachers Tim Patchin and Ed Tobin filled in to lead the group, accompanied by retired judge Robert Moody.

Here is a video of the students performing Frere Jacques and student Matt Acuna (accompanied by Tim Patchin) performing the classic 'Sleepwalk'.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Fairview Middle School Graduation in Gonzales

Congratulations to the recent graduates of Guitars not Guns in Gonzales and thank you to volunteer instructors Jerry Willis and Brian Shaw.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Marina High School Graduation

Congratulations to the Marina High School students who recently completed the beginner guitar course and had a good time doing it. 

Also a big thanks to instructors Tim Patchin (R) and Ed Tobin (L)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Marina Teen Center Graduation

Congratulations to our middle school students who completed the beginners course today and thanks to the instructors Tim Patchin (L), Ed Tobin (R) and Quinn Murphy (not pictured) who taught the class.

Here are a couple of short videos of the students performing:

Thursday, April 11, 2013

King City Graduation

First graduation in King City.  Congratulations to all the students and thanks to the volunteer instructors Luis Tostado, Bruce Graham and Leon Infante.

Here is the class performing ''Blowing in the Wind' during their graduation ceremony.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Rancho Ceilo Graduation

Congratulations to the March 2013 graduating class from Rancho Cielo in Salinas and thanks to the dedicated instructors, Jim Hanson (L)  and Jeff Richman (R), who taught the class.

Below is a video of the class play the Chuck Berry classic - 'Memphis Tennessee'