Cases click open. Eager hands meet ready guitars. Strings twang into tune. Legs assume playing position. Fingers quiver in anticipation.
It’s time to rock ‘n roll.
Thus begins a weekly session of the Guitar Program. Also known as Guitar Masters or Guitar Class, the Guitar Program is one of Thornton Community Engagement Program’s (TCEP) most popular offerings. Classes brought rock, pop, and a lifelong appreciation of music to a total of 125 students this past fall semester, allowing students to gain a solid foundation in music as early as 5th grade.
The Guitar Program has achieved popularity and acclaim among its students due to its flexible structure. Each week, undergraduate and graduate level students from USC Thornton take on the roles of teachers (referred to as mentors), developing their own lesson plans to implement in the classroom. Each classroom session typically centers around furthering one specific technique ranging from chords, bass lines, or harmony, to improvisation, solos, and riffs. This is followed by one or two new songs or “jams” which implement the learned technique. Jam sessions allow students to connect new techniques to real life songs they know and love, such as Green Day, AC/DC, and Rihanna.
For many mentors, running a Guitar Program class session marks their first experiences working with younger students. To help ease this transition, the Guitar Program’s curriculum is monitored and workshopped under the guidance of a mentor-facilitator. Our current mentor-facilitator, Jonathan Patterson, first became involved in Thornton Outreach while completing his Doctor of Musical Arts degree at USC between 2008-2011. Since then he has become a USC faculty member and currently teaches music theory, aural skills, and music technology classes within the Contemporary Music department.
In the role of mentor-facilitator, Patterson trains the mentors and observes them in their classrooms so he can provide them with guidance and support. Patterson helps them by discussing classroom management techniques, repertory selections, and other essential elements of lesson implementation with them. His philosophy, “Less talk, more rock”, emphasizes limiting the amount of talking done by the mentors to devote as much time as possible to allowing students to play.
The interactions between mentor-facilitators and mentors are one of the most influential aspects of programs like the Guitar Program. The multiple tiers of the teacher-student dynamic provide a unique environment where the scope of learning is widened to benefit more types of students during just one class. This multi-faceted program is just one example of how TCEP can continue bringing high quality music education to the children in our local communities.