High school guitar programs are music to students’ ears

Three years after graduating from Dakota Collegiate’s guitar program, Arabella Hrabarchuk returned to her alma mater to perform alongside current students at their end-of-year recital last week.

The 21-year-old said she enjoyed Ric Schulz’s guitar lesson so much that she happily returned to play a set list including save your tears by The Weeknd, The Killers Someone told me and wall of wonders by Oasis – a recital snap cementing the welcome return of school concerts after repeated COVID-19 disruptions.

“Learning guitar in high school is a lot like learning to drive a car, because it’s a skill that will actually take you far…both literally and metaphorically,” she said.

Hrabarchuk said the ability to play the guitar, which she began learning in public school in 6th grade, has created many opportunities, including invitations to perform at community venues. According to her, every school should offer guitar lessons.

Over the past 25 years, the number of classroom guitar programs in the province has more than quadrupled – a trend that local music teachers attribute to the widespread appeal of the string instrument, pop songs on blueprints courses and their passionate colleagues.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which has revised choir and band teaching due to public health concerns regarding transmission via aerosol production and prompted music teachers to get creative, has also room for more guitar instruction.

“We have a very rich history of orchestral and choir programming in Manitoba, and these courses are doing a great job of meeting the needs of many students in schools, but there are a large number of students who are not participating to the music,” Randy said. Haley, a teacher who has researched the growing popularity of guitar teaching.

Guitar lessons are a great way to serve a student population that has long been underserved so that more learners can experience the benefits of music education, he said.

Haley said her guitar students at JH Bruns Collegiate appreciate how easy it is to get started because “a few chords open the door to so much music.”

“If you give kids the opportunity to do fun things, they usually accept you,” said Lindsey Collins, president of the Manitoba Classroom Guitar Association, who noted that passionate and skilled guitar teachers are the source of the multiplication of successful programs.


Denzel Bird is a 12th grade student in Ric Schulz’s Dakota Collegiate guitar class.



Denzel Bird is a 12th grade student in Ric Schulz’s Dakota Collegiate guitar class.

The professional association began tracking the total number of schools offering guitar in 1995. At the time, there were 23 programs in the directory. In 2007, this figure had increased to 45. It is around 100 in 2021-22.

“It’s a good solo instrument and it can be played in an ensemble. You don’t have to have 30 other friends to make music,” Collins said.

The longtime music teacher said the instrument’s ubiquity, transportability and affordability are also attractive factors that have prompted schools to offer specialized music lessons and entice students to enroll in them. to register. It costs about $4,000 to buy 20 guitars to start a program, he said, noting that the price is not enough to buy a quality tuba.

Grade 12 student Denzel Bird said guitar lessons at school, along with encouragement from his teacher and mother, gave him the confidence to start playing in Winnipeg’s parks.

“(Guitar class) is a safe zone. It’s a place where I can be myself and do what I love. I have a huge passion for music – and for other people to hear me and say they like it, it’s really great,” said the 17-year-old, who gave his first solo concert under the spotlight on June 2 in Dakota.

After his acoustic and bass performances, during which proud family members cheered the crowd, Denzel was beaming.

There was only one guitar section at St. Vital High School in 2010. Now there are seven.

The longtime high school guitar teacher, also known as the “godfather guitar,” said Schulz that his course sells out. “It’s so versatile. You can take it anywhere. It fits perfectly in the church group, around the Christmas tree or around the campfire, or a Friday night with your friends.

Schulz is a proponent of musical literacy and uses classical songs to teach pedagogy, but relies on music charts to engage students in modern compositions.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only reinforced his view on the value of public guitar instruction, he said, noting that making music is good for mental health.

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Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press educational journalist comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.

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