Guitars and Ukes in the Classroom (GITC) may be based out of Southern California, but GITC programs are growing in schools and communities across the country. With fall classes in full swing, we took a moment to peek in on Franklin County, Tennessee, where GITC teacher Jonanne Hammer is leading the charge towards greater access to music for all students. Keep reading for more on her GITC “aha moment” and her goal to have at least one GITC teacher in every school in her district.
GITC: How did you get started with GITC? What made you take the leap?
JH: I came across GITC during a Google search looking for grants for my music classroom. It looked interesting and I sent a very generic email to the address given asking for more information, really not knowing what the organization was all about. This was a case of asking the right thing at the right time. Jess Baron was going to be close by in Nashville for the weekend and we were able to meet. She told me all about GITC and the methods used to teach guitar and ukulele. I left our meeting with two guitars, a ukulele, a bag of teaching materials, and a commitment to provide ukuleles for our summer music program! I also left with my head spinning with so many ideas of how to use this in our district's music programs, regular classrooms, and special education classes.
GITC: What experience did you have with music prior to GITC? How has GITC changed your relationship to music?
JH: I have been a middle school band director for going on 17 years. I play all brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments, but have never learned the guitar or ukulele -- though it has always been a goal of mine. GITC has broadened the availability of music for our school and district. Music happens outside the music room now. I now have a tool to reach non band students with music and can share that tool with other teachers in our district.
GITC: Can you share an "aha moment" or successful experience incorporating music into the classroom?
JH: GITC is still very new to me and our district. Our sixth grade science class was learning about energy earlier this school year. I used our ukuleles generously donated through GITC to lead the students in writing a song about the different types of energy. They learned and performed the song, then made a video. The science teacher said the experience was the most fun she has ever had teaching, and the students performed well on their assessment. The classroom environment remained very positive and the students stayed engaged throughout the entire process. We are a Title 1 school and some of our students do not have a lot of joy at home. To see them finding joy in learning through music is very satisfying as a teacher.
GITC: What results are you seeing with students and/or other teachers?
JH: Other teachers are becoming more interested in what we are doing. We are just now doing our first Beginner Course for teachers. Some of them are already stepping outside of their comfort zone and incorporating music into their classrooms! The students think they are rock stars!
GITC: What's on the horizon for you? Any upcoming music education goals?
JH: I am hoping to offer the Intermediate Course next and to enroll more classroom teachers into another Beginner Course. My goal is to have at least one teacher from each school in our district using GITC in their classroom and to empower them to lead other teachers in their school to become involved. As a trained music educator, I know the benefits playing music has on a student’s brain, as well as the transforming power of music. Now, for the first time in our school district, classroom teachers can experience this as well.
GITC: If you had to capture GITC in one word, what would that word be?
JH: Accessible. GITC is making music accessible for students who may not otherwise have the opportunity to participate in the music making process. GTIC is providing access for teachers who may not otherwise be involved in music, especially in their classroom.
GITC: Anything else you'd like to add?
JH: Sometimes things happen around us and we know that it is just meant to be. That describes my experience becoming involved with Jess and GITC. This has very much been about being in the right place at the right time. I am overwhelmed by the generosity of GITC and their supporters and the difference it is making in our school district.