- Associated Press - Sunday, December 4, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - This is music for the masses.

The guitar class at Southwest High School is open to the one-time recorder players, the fourth-grade violinists, the tried-the-clarinet-changed-to-tuba-then-trombone-to-oh-never-mind musicians. This is one for the students whose schedules will never be driven by orchestra or marching band or show choir.

For the record, it’s also for the 30 percent or so of high school students who have been practicing and playing and performing for years, but it’s also for the rest.

It’s for Zach Todd, a junior whose brother gave him a guitar that he’s never really learned how to play.

And Makenna Parker, a ninth-grader who plays volleyball and basketball, and always wanted to learn to play the guitar but just couldn’t find the time.

It’s for Braydon Dose, a senior who plays trumpet in the band and Justin Shaw, a senior who tinkered with trombone and violin and piano in elementary school, then went on to become an accomplished Guitar Hero player.

The Lincoln Journal Star (https://bit.ly/2fN0mpy ) reports the guitar class was something teacher Jason Lenz knew he wanted to create when he took the job at Southwest three years ago. He’d been a substitute and had seen classes at other schools, and he knew Southwest was the only high school that didn’t offer a guitar class.

“I want to teach the importance of music in our lives and the importance of practice in our lives,” he said.

Lance Nielsen, the district’s music curriculum specialist, was still teaching at East High School about eight years ago when the school began one of the first guitar classes. Other high schools followed suit.

“The whole idea was we wanted to provide a music curriculum that kind of reached out to other students who don’t typically participate in band, choir or orchestra,” he said.

For those who teach fine arts, classes like this are a way to encourage involvement in the arts, an effort to turn the push for STEM classes (science, technology, engineering and math) into STEAM (the A is for arts).

Lenz is using a curriculum that’s different than that used in other high schools, one which includes a digital component and music that’s more appealing to high school students, he said.

Why guitar?

“It’s the cool class,” he said. “There are a lot of people who want to be guitar players rather than play the tuba.”

Not that the tuba isn’t cool, but the guitar allows students to play in ensembles as well as solos, to begin to play based on fingering positions then move on to learning the basics of reading music.

It gives students who might not aspire to be music teachers or performance artists a chance to bring music into their lives.

Lenz ordered 23 guitars for the class, which will be offered both this semester and next.

He’s limited the class size to 20, which means a maximum 40 students. Sixty-seven signed up.

There are similar classes offered at schools throughout the district designed to draw students into music.

Music technology classes allow students to create and arrange music, or combine music with podcasts or other productions. Next year, Lincoln High will offer a world drumming class.

Students in Lenz’s class said they like that it’s something different, that it allows them to meet students they might not otherwise know, that it’s a great way to end the day.

“It’s my favorite class,” said Parker.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com

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