Nonprofit Donates Guitars to After-School Program | June 29, 2017

By Brooke Constance White

Krista Sturtevant, director of development for the Newport Festivals Foundation, and William Vareika, member of the Newport Festivals Foundation Board of Directors with students Alex Ochoa, Angel Gonzalez and Keiran Moore, who participate in the Pell Elementary School After-School Guitar Club. (Photo by Jen Carter)
In an effort to help foster an appreciation of music in young, local students, the Newport Festival Foundation generously donated 10 Yamaha three-quarter scale guitars and gig bags to the Pell Elementary School’s after-school guitar club Monday morning, so participants could bring an instrument home to practice on. The guitars, which were given in honor of Producer Emeritus Bob Jones and his nearly six decades of work with the organization, will be used to teach fourth grade students about the parts of the instrument, simple theory, tablature, chords and songs.

The nonprofit, which puts on the Newport Jazz Festival and the Newport Folk Festival, provides the instruments through educational initiatives to celebrate innovation while preserving the traditions inherent in jazz and folk music. Its focus on creating experiences to spark engagement is done through different proposals, including instrument drives and musical performances at schools throughout the region.

Mark McKenna, family service coordinator for East Bay Community Action’s Pell Elementary school office, said he was thrilled with the donation to the program and the foundation’s continual support for musical education. Before receiving the 10 junior-sized guitars, the after-school program had a motley collection of guitars, mostly adult sizes, which are too large for an elementary school student to learn on. The few guitars they did have were without cases, so students weren’t able to bring them home to practice on.

“We really think it’s critical that students bring the guitars home so they can practice, but it’s not good to send [them] home without a case or bag,” he said. “The fact that we have 10 brand new guitars with cases is a huge plus for the program.”

Aside from learning about music theory and how to play the guitar, McKenna said students are also learning critical thinking, reasoning, internal discipline and focus.

“We talk a lot about mentorship and how powerful it is, and this program is an example of it. Each of the students who participate have a couple more people that they know care about them and want to be involved in their lives,” he said. “It also helps with their social and emotional well-being and health. The more positive people in these kids’ lives, the better.”

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