Each Wednesday evening, a small group of young, budding musicians gathers in the Joint Base Andrews Youth Center to study how to play guitar. The students, usually between the ages of 12 and 16, learn the parts of the guitar, how to play basic chords and songs, but there’s a lot more to it than the class, provided for free by volunteers with Music4Life, a nonprofit organization which offers music lessons to young people at no cost. It’s an opportunity to focus on creative expression, and concentrate on beautiful, meaningful music of their own devising. It’s a skill, and a joy, volunteer Kevin Kremer hopes today’s crop of young musicians will carry throughout their lives.
The program is officially eight weeks long. Students receive a guitar, tuner and lessons aimed at the absolute beginner. Music4Life has classes offered across the region, generally aiming to reach children who might be otherwise unable to take advantage of music classes outside of the school day, explained Music4Life President Skip Chaples.
Volunteer instructor Kevin Kremer has been part of Music4Life since 2008, when he started teaching guitar at a Boys and Girls Club in Alexandria, Va. The self-taught guitarist and former service member thought of the many children of deployed parents in our area and decided to focus on teaching youth affiliated with local military bases. He taught classes at Fort Belvoir for two years, before moving to Clinton, Md. and launching Music4Life classes at Andrews more than three years ago. Though he is serious about teaching proper technique and musicality, he knows he’s there for more than just passing down the skills he has developed as a guitarist.
“The great thing about Music4Life is to engage and mentor kids through music,” Kremer said.
After an eight to 12-week series of classes, students take a test which, if they pass, allows them to keep their guitars, provided for free.
“The costs are borne by the program,” said Kremer. “Skip does work with the Rotary Club and music festivals (to raise funds) and the teaching is all volunteer, so the only costs are the guitars and tuners.”
Keeping the classes and guitars free for any interested youth makes musical expression possible for children who might not feel able to pay for an instrument and the introductory lessons which will allow them to test their interest in guitar.