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.

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