You may have read the story of Rachel Ostrowki’s experience receiving a new guitar from Guitar Center and GITC after her guitars were stolen in a home burglary. The original story we posted is below. The latest update just came from Rachel’s family. They sent us this video of Rachel and her buddy Jeremy performing for the first middle school talent show…this is her first time really signing in public by herself and she is playing on her new Ibanez guitar. Three cheers for this young musician who continues to challenge herself musically and share her passion for music with her school! We hope Rachel’s dedication encourages any of you learning to strum and sing, and developing the courage to play for others. When it’s all about the music and that magical connection within and without, anything is possible. Please enjoy this video of our friend, Rachel, and if you have never read her story, you will find it just beneath the video.

Recently, GITC received a letter from Mr. Allen Lin, a first grade teacher in South Pasadena who learned to integrate music in his classroom back in 2006 with our program at University of California, Berkeley. Mr. Lin was writing to reach out on behalf of 11 year old Rachel Ostrowski, a child whom he had taught through music as a first grader, and whose family had just been robbed. Mr. Lin was very concerned for Rachel because the burglar had made off with many easy-to-carry possessions including her three guitars. Yes, three. Mr. Lin described Rachel, five years after being in his GITC classroom, as a very talented and promising young guitarist.

Maybe you just heard the sound of a heart breaking. So did we.

To hear Rachel play is to understand why this now-sixth grader had three guitars to her name- and how traumatic and personal the theft was for her. Rachel adores playing guitar and her passion has produced wonderful results. She plays with an uncanny musical assurance- her rock solid rhythm, strong melodic chords, and graceful fingers reach for sparkling notes, and she keeps a watchful eye and ear for the children who are singing along with her. She demonstrates thoughtfulness beyond her years. In every class since third grade, she has supported others to sing their hearts out. Rachel Ostrowski is a true ambassador of the GITC spirit and mission. The loss of her instruments was very serious. Such a cold act can damage a young person’s ability to trust. To prevent this from happening,  her teacher, her parents, myself and our board felt compelled to act immediately on her behalf.

Rachel as a Halloween Singing Cowgirl

Our Vice President, Dan Smith reached out within his company, Guitar Center, to Mr. John Unger who heads the Charitable Giving Committee at Guitar Center and also serves as that company’s Director of Treasury.  Guitar Center has to date helped Guitars in the Classroom train 140 teachers in the Los Angeles and Ventura region to play guitar and integrate music over the past three years, bringing music making to 13,000 students in the region. Together, John and Dan discussed how best to assist Rachel and decided to donate, through GITC, a guitar of Rachel’s choosing from her local Guitar Center. Other GITC sponsors participated in filling a bag with accessories and supplies she’d also need- a capo and picks from Dunlop Manufacturing, a new strap from Levy’s Leathers, cleansing lotion from Guitar Hands, and new strings from D’Addario. And so the healing began.

With everyone conspiring to create a surprise, Pasadena GC store manager Scott Smith secreted away an Ibanez dreadnaught guitar that Rachel had been coveting. Mr. Lin arrived at Guitar Center after school, 10 minutes ahead of Rachel, her mom and her older sister, Julia.  I got there when everyone was present and pretended to have just run into Rachel’s mom as an old friend- inquiring about Rachel’s love of guitar. Meanwhile, Rachel’s dad, Jim, snuck by and hid with Mr. Lin in the acoustic guitar room. Scott was ready with the guitar. Unsuspecting Rachel led me back to the acoustic guitar room to “show me around” and instead was mysteriously greeted by her teacher and her dad. The jig was up. Scott came in holding the guitar in his outstretched hand, beaming a big smile. As Rachel’s eyes filled with tears, she hugged her dad and we all participated in telling her the story of how she was receiving this gift. The more Rachel understood, the more tears of joy rendered her speechless.

The Ostrowskis and Mr. Lin celebrate at Guitar Center

Despite overwhelming emotion, Rachel still managed to play the new guitar. And in the great tradition of young guitarists at Guitar Centers everywhere, she chose to christen her new instrument with…wait for it…. “Stairway to Heaven.”

According to Rachel’s mother, Liz Price, Rachel has been playing her new guitar at every possible chance. In her beautiful thank you letter to me, on behalf of GITC and Guitar Center this week, Rachel put it this way.

“It’s so nice to have someone that knows what it feels like to have things taken away that mean so much to you. But more than that, someone that did something about it. What I mean to say- although I don’t think that I could ever really express everything that I’m feeling- is that I never realized anyone would do something so thoughtful, and the fact that anybody would do that for me of all the people in the world!”

Rachel Ostrowski and Guitar Center Pasadena store manager Scott Smith share a moment of happiness.

Thanks to each of you who participated in making this beautiful gift for Rachel possible – Allen Lin, John Unger, Dan Smith, Scott Smith and Daniel from Guitar Center Pasadena, and the whole Ostrowski family.  And thank you, Rachel, for being a musical light in the lives of your classmates and friends. Shine on!

Rachel Ostrowski poses with first grade teacher Allen Lin and GITC’s founder and executive director, Jessica Baron

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