ANTIOCH – Brothers Elvis and Eduardo Quintana could be the next rock stars to come out of Antioch, let alone Contra Costa County, and for that matter, the Bay Area. If they do find themselves on the big stage when they get older, they can thank a certain program for giving them their start.
Elvis, 7, and Eduardo, 10, were just two of eight students who graduated from the Guitars Not Guns program recently at the Family Justice Center in Antioch. Guitars Not Guns is a music-based program that takes in at-risk and foster youth and teaches them how to play guitar. At the end of the program, the kids play a song they learned over the course and then get gift bags and certificates.
“There’s a lot of kids that are not athletic, per se,” said Barbara Gorin, the director of the Contra Costa County Chapter of Guitars Not Guns and a professional guitarist. “We need to give them something to do. Bringing music to their lives it’s giving them something that’s a universal language and giving them the basic tools to write their own music."
“When I was a full-time working musician, every time they had a guitar around the foster kids, the kids were really interested in learning to play.”
For the Quintana brothers, it took them a little while longer than some to get interested in learning to play.
“In the beginning, we were not so much (interested in the class),” Eduardo said. “By the fourth lesson, we were excited (to play). We were just shy.”
“The kids see that all the hard work that they’ve put into these last eight weeks, having everybody come together and everybody appreciating what we’ve taught them that they really get an understanding,” Gorin said. “And we don’t tell them that they get to keep the guitars; we want them to earn it.”
The program is much more than just a basic, beginning-level music class for kids.
“This program is all kinds of things,” Contra Costa County Supervisor Diane Burgis said. “It’s an outlet for kids to learn music, which could mean just having positive interactions with other people. It could be learning something that’s a hobby for the rest of their life, or could just be an understanding of the science (of music) or different arts.
“It’s a different outlet for each kid.”
Burgis has been a longtime supporter of the nonprofit, and her late husband, Richard Clayton, was also a volunteer teacher and supporter.
Allowing the kids to keep the guitars adds another level to the program as well. Guitars can cost from $100 to more than $100,000, and that $100 could mean the difference between rent and food for the next month, or, in this case, a guitar.
“Just having access to a guitar, being able to touch it, feel it, and then maybe developing a little bit of confidence and knowledge might be enough to bring them to the next level,” Burgis said.
Guitars Not Guns are still looking for volunteers and help going forward. Those interested are encouraged to reach out to Gorin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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