John Parker leads each guitar lesson with attentiveness and enthusiasm. Witnessing his seemingly endless energy, it may be hard to believe that the Mira Loma Middle teacher has advised the school’s guitar club for over twenty years.
But his exuberance is why the club endures as each class graduates. “He has energy like he actually wants to teach us,” said seventh grader Guillermo Comparan on what is most enjoyable about guitar club. Guillermo, who wants to be a musician, knew a bit of guitar before joining the club but credits Mr. Parker with teaching him the songs and skills he needed to progress.
“Most of them are beginners,” said Mr. Parker of his students. “But I'd say every once in a while I'll get a couple of intermediate kids and once in a blue moon, an advanced student.”
Funded by the Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELO) Program as of last year, the guitar club meets each Tuesday after school. Students begin by tuning their instruments, a mix of electric and acoustic guitars owned mainly by the students themselves, though Mr. Parker loans out a few. Then Mr. Parker hands out a packet of new songs or chords to cover during the lesson.
To instruct his students, Mr. Parker uses eMedia, the veteran beginning guitar lesson software that once came on CDs but now sells as digital downloads. “That’s a good program,” said Mr. Parker. “In fact, that's how I learned by, with the old school discs.” The software hosts classic songs by Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, John Lennon, and others, introducing younger generations to music they might not otherwise know.
After covering new material, Mr. Parker leads the class in a review, then they move on to playing modern, popular songs the students are familiar with before ending the meeting with a showcase where students share something they have learned on the guitar. Even if it is just a few notes, the showcase helps build students’ confidence as they perform solo in front of their teacher and peers. Most of Mr. Parker’s students will leave the club at the advanced beginner or early intermediate level, but he has years where students are intermediate to advanced.
Beyond the benefit of learning to play an instrument, Mira Loma’s guitar club enriches students socially and academically. “They all like music. It’s a common ground,” said Mr. Parker of the social benefits. “It brings them together in a school environment and they actually get to know each other better…and help one another. Not only in guitar [club] but outside of guitar as well.” Also a math teacher, Mr. Parker believes the measures and counting involved in reading sheet music strengthen students academically, too.
For his part, the teacher has learned to be more patient with students and not fret if a guitar is out of tune or someone strums the wrong chord. “I have to remember that I was there once in their shoes,” he said.
For participating students, the guitar club is something to look forward to even on tough days. “It makes me want to come to school,” shared Jasmin Pineda, eighth grade, “because I'm excited to take this class and to learn how to improve my skills.”