The first rule of the Guitar Club is to tell everyone about the Guitar Club.
The second rule is to teach them how to play guitar.
A group of Williamsburg middle schoolers have been inspired to teach fellow students how to handle an axe after a school parent and a teacher took the time to teach them how to play a six-string.
Guitar-playing parent Beau Friedlander teamed with MS 577 guitar-playing teacher Tom MacDonald to teach kids songs such as the Lumineer’s “Ho Hey,” and after they rocked out at a holiday show, demand for the duo’s services out weighed their supply of time.
And that’s when their first students stepped in.
“When a kid finally gets it, it gives me the feeling that I have done something good,” said 13-year-old student Matthew Fitzpatrick, a seventh grader who has already begun passing down his knowledge to kids even more wet behind the ears than he, even though he only started playing six months ago and knows a handful of chords. “It is really fun.”
Fitzpatrick and other older kids picked up the slack by starting to teach each other, and as soon as they would learn a new chord or song, they would seek out younger kids to show them how it is done. Friedlander and MacDonald started asking their students to promise to pass on what they learned.
“We are creating this weird little nation of guitar players,” said Friedlander.
And the kids all turn out to be all right as teachers.
“Kids are sometimes better at showing each other how to do things than adults are,” said Friedlander. “They speak the same language.”
And according to the kids, explaining how something is done to another student benefits both the student and the teacher.
“Teaching helps you understand the instruments better,” said Ella Friedlander. “You are getting a deeper understanding of what you are playing.”
The kids have already learned several popular songs, including “Firework” by Katy Perry, “Maps” by Maroon 5, and “Rude” by Magic. They have also taken on some stalwart classics, including “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” by the Beatles and “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd.
The kids are now raising money to build a website where they will post their own homemade instructional videos, and are hoping to raise enough money to buy guitars for 50 more kids.
Friedlander and MacDonald also hope to expand the club to at least two more schools and eventually the entire city.
“I just want kids to be enriched with music and the arts and learn a skill that goes with you beyond test taking,” said MacDonald.