Organizers are seeking experienced guitar teachers willing to commit to an eight-week guitar lesson program called Guitars Not Guns starting in July to be hosted by the City of Hollister Parks and Recreation Department. The nationwide nonprofit organization operates in communities throughout the U.S. Major financial and technical support for this program — including the purchase of new guitars, gear bags and music books — will come from the Monterey County chapter, according to its executive director Stephen Vagnini.
The program, free to at-risk youths ages 8 to 18 years old, typically relies on the support of volunteer instructors. However, San Benito County Supervisors Jaime De La Cruz and Mark Medina offered to contribute $500 each to pay stipends to attract vetted and qualified guitar teachers to jumpstart the program within 30 days. In addition, Gary Byrne, executive director of the Community Foundation for San Benito County, offered financial support from that agency. Byrne wrote in an e-mail: "This is great news for our community, I have heard nothing but good things about the Monterey program. The Community Foundation would like to partner with the program, we too will donate $500 towards the stipends."
Tina Garza, Hollister Parks and Recreation program supervisor, submitted a budget item to help fund the program in fiscal year 2018 which was approved by the Hollister City Council at a special meeting on June 1. In addition, Jennifer Laine, executive director with the San Benito County Arts Council, offered classroom space, administrative support and fiscal stewardship of the funds as well as recommendations to work with other nonprofit organizations such as the Chamberlain's Children's Center and the Hollister Youth Alliance.
The goal of Guitars Not Guns is to help prevent violence in schools and on the streets by providing at-risk youth with focus and self-actualization. Guitars Not Guns aims to empower children with the most fundamental tool to succeed: Believe in yourself and you can accomplish anything. Using music as a catalyst we encourage children and teens to use their creativity to foster personal development and to help divert them from self-destructive influences such as drugs, alcohol and gang-related activities. By providing free guitars and lessons the community music education program seeks to engage the creative potential of its students and help them achieve their dreams.
Prospective guitar teachers are encouraged to contact Tina Garza at the Hollister Parks and Recreation Department at (831) 636-4390 for application materials and more information.