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 the chords.
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.