Caitlin, a pretty little girl in pink sneakers and a purple tie-dye
outfit – cradling a guitar almost as big as she is – concentrated
intently on what the teacher was telling her, trying hard to master
Caitlin and her brother, Jerry, were two of half a dozen youngsters
who took guitar lessons twice a week for several months at the Boys
and Girls Club in Salinas.
The idea was for youngsters to “reclaim” their musical
heritage by transforming the club (in Salinas as well as the BGC’s
Seaside facility, where drumming was offered) into a cultural learning
environment for music. The sites became places for them to learn and
preserve the indigenous music from the African and Latin diasporas
and to build bridges between the community and the university.
The kids had no musical background, symptomatic of the lack of music
education in local public schools. Isaac Fisher, a student at California
State University, Monterey Bay, taught the class as part of his university
service-learning requirement. By the end of the eight-week session,
they had mastered 10 chords and could play several pieces of music.
“I’ve never been on the teaching side of music,”
Isaac said. “It was really fun sometimes, and really frustrating
some days. But I’d do it again.”
All six of the youngsters indicated a willingness to continue studying
the guitar and most wanted to meet more than twice a week. All had
high praise for Isaac, calling him a “cool guy” and asking
if he could come back for another round of lessons.
Jerry, a 12-year-old sixth-grader, said he enjoyed the lessons so
much he had asked for a guitar for his birthday and was fairly certain
his parents would oblige. He was eager to learn to play AC-DC’s
“Back in Black,” which he called his favorite CD –
after being introduced to the 1970’s-era band by his grandmother.