They're Strumming Quite a Tune at Quail Valley Elementary

Israel Camacho packed up his electric guitar after helping a few classmates close out the morning a...

Israel Camacho packed up his electric guitar after helping a few classmates close out the morning assembly at Quail Valley Elementary School Friday with a contemporary piece that had the students clapping to the beat.

"I wanted to play guitar because my dad does," said Israel, 10 years old and a fifth grader at the school. "First I played acoustic guitar, but my teacher said I would be better on electric because they would hear it better."

Some played electric guitars on Friday, some acoustic, and a couple even played the ukulele. It was the first public performance for the 20 or so members of Quail Valley Elementary's after-school guitar club.

Led by fifth grade teacher Dan Anderson, who formed the club a couple years ago, the group meets after school on Mondays to learn and practice the popular musical instrument. Anderson first started playing guitar pieces as a musical supplement in his class, and the interest shown by several students led to the formation of the club.

Students may provide their own guitar or borrow one of several Anderson has acquired the last few years. The guitar club is not part of the school's music program, but Anderson receives support from principal Linda Hickey and the other teachers.

"I get great support from the administration," Anderson said. "Officially, this is just me giving kids the opportunity to play. They have the desire and they look forward to the practices. They hate it when Monday is a holiday because they miss the club that week."

In Friday's assembly, Anderson divided the club members into three groups. The majority opened the performance, with members taking turns picking the melody of "Itsy Bitsy Spider." Then an intermediate group did the same with "Joy to the World." The final group consisted of three more advanced guitarists, including Israel Camacho.

"This is an opportunity for students in the performing arts," Hickey said. "During the regular school day, it's hard to fit this kind of thing in. We're thankful we have a teacher like Mr. Anderson who plays the guitar and wants to do this."

Anderson believes strongly that learning to play a musical instrument can be a valuable experience for students, including those who might struggle academically.

"Music is a great motivator," he said. "If students are struggling academically, this gives them a chance to excel in another area. It's exciting for me to see their commitment to it."