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Kids rock out in program

Jason Werling • Apr 14, 2014 at 7:20 PM

Red, red, red, green, blue.

Keep reading and you will soon understand.

Red, red, red, blue, green, red.

I picked up a guitar for the first time Friday afternoon and sat in with a bunch of talented kids for my first lesson in how to strum the strings.

Within an hour I was playing the Van Morrison song “Gloria,” brilliantly covered by Patti Smith.

G-L-O-R-I-A, Gloria.

Red, red, red, green and blue were the colors of the ChordBuddy, a device recently invented by Travis Perry. It is designed to teach the guitar to someone, and quickly.

“It keeps kids interested. They are playing from the start,” said Bo Loeffler, who along with John Cipiti and Julie Loeffler, Bo’s wife, teach the kids to play music. Helping them was the extremely talented Kimberly Ryu playing the piano.

The group and the classes are all part of Little Kids Rock.

It’s a national music program created in 2002 to provide music education in schools, particularly as dwindling budgets force cutbacks or elimination of music programs. They purchase instruments and provide programs and training for public school students and teachers.

Artists like Bonnie Raitt, Paul Simon, Slash, BB King, Ziggy Marley and others have served on the national board of Little Kids Rock to raise the awareness of the importance of music education.

St. Peter School is the first Catholic school to take part in the program. As a private parochial school, it did not fit the parameters of the Little Kids Rock program.

After discussions with the executives at Little Kids Rock, however, the school was admitted as long as it purchased instruments and its staff completed the teacher training program in Chicago last October.

St. Peter partnered with Terra State Community College to have John Cipiti lead the school’s program. Cipiti is co-chair of the music department and lead faculty of the music and humanities department at Terra State Community College.

I sat in on three classes. Each class is half an hour once a week, catering to children of varying ages, first to eighth grade. The older children were skilled, of course, and the younger ones are still learning.

Matthew Bores, 14, was my guitar buddy, ready to help if I needed it.

“My uncle has a band. I play just to have fun,” he said.

And that works just fine. Music is the soul of a nation.

Studies have found students who participate in some form of music education perform better in other classes, such as math, Cipiti said.

For others, such as 10-year-old Annabelle Ryu, it could easily lead to a future profession. She wants to play in a orchestra.

“I’ve been playing instruments for seven years,” Annabelle said. “The piano, violin, cello and recorder”

I lost track of how many times we played “Gloria.” We took turns either playing guitar, singing or playing drums. It is wonderful to see a quiet shy kid get up and sing.

We rocked it out. It was so much fun watching the kids who were having a great time. Some even went with a dramatic rock finish, but they were learning.

I saw students with confidence, and I saw adults who were having just as much fun as the kids.

I’m not saying I know how to play the guitar as I didn’t master the chords in an hour.

But I did learn how to play “Gloria” with a decent strumming technique — and we had fun, my ChordBuddy and I.

Some of the kids have made such progress with learning chords that they won’t be needing the ChordBuddy much longer. They’re asking when they can go solo.

For me, it’s still red, red, red, green, blue.

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