Through GITC sponsor, Saga Musical Instruments, Judy ordered 24 soprano ukuleles for her classroom. Our Tuning Archangel, Rodney Howard got them ready and we personally delivered them to the school to make sure everything arrived timely.
Judy wrote to GITC from her hospital bed, explaining what was going on. She worried that because of her health crisis, her kiddos had not learned to play despite the ukes being in a big box in their classroom. "I'm not sure who will be taking over my room, but I think they will begin on Monday, " she explained. " I made a promise to those kids to learn the ukulele and if you can help me out, well wonderful. Marissa Ramirez is the other first grade teacher who is my partner in crime. I have my own little uke and guitar here that cheer me up. I am so grateful for everyone's kindness."
We promised Judy that we would find a way to fund two weekly first grade teaching artist residencies in order that her promise to the children be fulfilled and her dream realized.
Thankfully, this came to pass when international online ukulele teacher Terry Carter, CEO of Uke Like the Pros contacted GITC and offered to raise money at the winter holidays by challenging his students to match him dollar for dollar in supporting music for children in Title 1 schools. Everyone chipped in raising just enough to send GITC Teaching Artist. Jefferson Jay to bring joy and learning to Judy's and Melissa's kids. Jefferson is one of the most convivial people you'd ever want to meet and he was up for the assignment.
GITC is grateful to the VAPA Foundation for their generous, ongoing support of teachers who voluntarily take our music integration courses. We are thankful for Saga Musical Instruments for making ukes so affordable for GITC teachers!
Thanks those organizations and to Judy Johnson, Terry Carter, Terry's students, and Jefferson Jay, between January and April, teachers and students in both first grades learned how to strum, sing, and write their own songs for learning!
Now Judy's love will live on every time a new first grader comes into their classroom at the beginning of the year and finds out that going to school at Johnson means learning through the power of song and the joy of making music.
GITC's Summer Teacher Retreat
Teachers, Paras, Specialists and Friends!
We are planning our 4th Annual GITC Teacher Retreat and wonder if you'd like to join us!?
We'll be heading up to Julian, CA at Camp Cedar Glen once again. This spacious spot in the woods and mountain air is easily accessible, disability friendly, and so comfortable.
Coming to the retreat gives educators time to unwind, bond with friends, deepen your musical knowledge, expand your skills and double your confidence as a song leader! This three-day GITC experience will help them accomplish their musical goals while they renew their spirits and rest their bodies among friends in a beautiful place and all for a tiny price!
Located only two miles away from Julian Town Hall, Camp Cedar Glen offers a relaxed and social atmosphere where families and visitors all find welcome and a variety of affordable accommodations and amenities.
HERE IS OUR PRE-RETREAT SURVEY for anyone planning to join us. It will help you request special sleeping arrangements (as much as we can manage in cabins :-) and give us dietary restrictions, too.
Official Registration is OPEN! This link let's you pay for camp.
Retreat Dates: August 1 – 4, 2019
Arrival August 1st - Thursday - dinner (arrival at 4 PM or after)
August 2nd - breakfast, lunch and dinner
August 3rd - breakfast, lunch and dinner
Departure August 4th - Sunday - breakfast & lunch (departure at 2 PM)
REGISTER by CLICKING HERE!
Holy ukulele! The students and teachers from Jefferson Elementary really rocked their GITC culminating performance at the Observatory North Park! The lights were bright, but the smiles were brighter! Special thanks to Teaching Artist Jefferson Jay for coordinating a wonderful year of learning and a dynamic end-of-the-year showcase.
We are most grateful to San Diego Unified School District's VAPA Department and our Superintendent, Cindy Marten for supporting Arts Integration in our Title 1 schools. Jefferson Elementary received their teaching artist residencies through VAPA's Learning through the Arts program. We have had an incredible four years serving in this advanced initiative!
Please enjoy some photos from the Jefferson Elementary final performance here!
Please enjoy photos from our students' final performances at Paradise Hills Elementary here!
What is Adaptive Music all about and what makes it so "AMASE-ing?"
For most of us, learning to make music is a complex process that involves putting a myriad of motor skills, small and large to work. Our arms, hands and fingers, our legs, feet and toes, our ears, eyes and mouths, our hearts, our lungs, our heads, necks and torsos, and all that gray matter that connects the musical and physical dots for us are involved. We are all born with musical potential, no matter what our bodies and brains can or cannot do with ease.
But what happens to children if some part of their anatomical tool box doesn't exist or doesn't work very well? Can a person with limiting conditions develop alternate ways to approach making music?
The answer, of course, is "Yes, they can, and they must be given that chance." Not only can all students learn to enjoy making music, but those who face major challenges physically, cognitively or emotionally stand to gain a great deal by having this opportunity.
Think of superstars like the irreducible Django Reinhardt, Stevie Wonder, Evelyn Glennie or Rick Allen of Def Lepard to get a glimpse of what is possible. There are so many musicians who have not let impairments stand in their way. So what can we do for our students who spend every day isolated from regular music instruction opportunities?
We can break down the barrier to making music by training the adults who teach and assist students with special needs to lead the way. This approach is still new and the teachers and paras who are already participating are already successfully leading music every single day!
AMASE Conferences last two days. During this time, special education professionals gather together to learn and to improvise exciting ways to create inclusive, effective music instruction. We share adaptive practices and techniques for making instruments more accessible for students. Trainers in innovative technologies participate as do local music therapists who teach specialized interventions such as the artful de-escalation of aggressive behavior and refocusing students away from stressful triggers and toward productive participation.
GITC is able to offer these trainings to 45 participants each time and to do this at no charge thanks to very important grants from the Nordson Foundation, the Qualcomm Foundation, the NAMM Foundation, and with charitable participation from generous music products sponsors and amase-ing individual donors! We are deeply thankful to each and all for this compassionate support.
At GITC, we know AMASE has to offer a broad array of musical opportunities so that we can include students regardless of what kind of mountain they might be climbing. Ukuleles are fantastic but so are drums! We are crazy about REMO's Comfort Sound Technology drums created for students with special needs and hypersensitive hearing. So is the Beamz Interactive Unit!
Paralysis might look like a barrier but it need not be. With eye gaze technology, eye movements are enough to trigger musical instruments that work with computers. Spastic muscles might make it hard for students with Cerebral Palsy to strum strings or strike drums, but adaptive grips. picks and mallets solve that. The variety of approaches to making music accessible is pretty good now and will only grow with time and exploration. We want to make sure these approaches reach the kids who can benefit from them the most.
This is why, through AMASE, we are "gathering the tribe" - calling all sorts of innovators together to join us in training special educators and paraprofessional staffers, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, counselors and others to bring music making to students with special needs. Are you hearing the call? Please reach out to us. Let us know. It takes quite a large village to make this endeavor possible! To discuss ways to get involved, please drop us a line! And to see when our next AMASE Conference is taking place, please visit our PROGRAMS PAGE. We look forward to hearing from you and thank you for learning about AMASE.
Are you preparing your students to give a special informance (left) or performance (below)? The first one is often done in a relaxed atmosphere in your classroom by inviting visitors in.
The second is more likely to occur in a more public space that may have a stage or a platform and a designated place for audience members to sit. The first is much easier, needing just in class rehearsal. The second is a much bigger proposition!
No need to be daunted. Yes it's a big process but it also affords us as educators an enormous opportunity to teach things that just don't get addressed a different way.
Facilitating and leading a great performance gives us opportunities to help students develop excellent listening skills, sequencing, mind body coordination, spatial relations, grace, mindfulness, a sense of timing, group awareness, courage, self confidence, communication skills, and then there are all the artistic abilities and skills they are developing, too. It's worth all the planning and practice when you take the time to use it as a chance to integrate music, drama, movement, and personal development.
READY, SET, WAIT!
In order to facilitate a positive and safe performing experience for students, we recommend taking 7 important steps to creating a successful show. These steps can increase the students' sense of being ready and in control and this will reduce their anxiety. Having a few jitters are normal but stage fright can be overwhelming. It fear or confusion leads a student to making a mistake and feeling embarrassed on stage, they may cry, shut down or run offstage! This can turn into a frozen moment during the show and a negative memory for that child which lasts and turns into low musical self esteem! Let's avoid that if we can!
The steps that follow are designed to help you and your students to achieve safety making entrances and exits, smoothness of performance, and a beautiful result.
STEP ONE: DETERMINE
LINE ORDER FOR SEATING, ENTRANCES AND EXITS
Students need direction from you how to line up, who is singing and who will have a ukulele, and through what entrance to go on stage and off stage. DECIDE how this will go, then give clear instructions and practice lining up.
MAKE SURE EVERYONE CAN BE SEEN & HEARD
Stage students so they can be seen and heard by the audience. This is easiest to do on paper first, then with the students themselves on stage, finding the right places without being watched by outsiders. You can explain that this step takes patience and paying attention. We recommend organizing your students in 2 or 3 rows:
SHARE YOUR PLAN AND TRY IT OUT FIRST!
Before you bring students onstage, communicate with them about who will go where. Diagrams can help.
Giving kids clear instructions first, answering questions in your classroom, then going to the stage to practice finding their places ahead of time is helpful for a smooth performance. This activity gives you a chance to teach locations on a stage!
(Hint: Marking places with blue painters tape can guide their eyes and feet to the right spots.)
STAGE FOUR: MEMORIZE THE MATERIAL!
Before performing, your students need to have their songs memorized. Singing with papers onstage leads to students holding the paper in front of their faces which means no one can see or hear them. After they finish, their parents may complain and make them feel bad about that. So it's best to start practicing singing and playing several weeks in advance until they can share their music without looking.
Once they have their song committed to memory, you can help them practice singing and playing it from the stage while pretending to make eye contact with the audience.
Children can find it helpful to choose a person to sing to or a spot on the back wall to look at while they sing in order to not appear distracted. Students smiling is great- but please don't shout "Smile! Smile!" during the performance. The audience can hear you!
STEP FIVE: CHECK OUT THE SOUND SYSTEM & TEACH STUDENTS MIC TECHNIQUE AHEAD OF THE SHOW
Our sound advice is this. If someone on staff or a friend can help you set up the sound and run it on the day of the performance, just say "Yes, please!" Two pairs of hands and ears are better than one.
Why? School sound systems can be as simple as one podium and stationary mic, or far more elaborate. They can include good speakers or a bad one. They can be wired into the whole auditorium or consist of separate components. You won't know what you are working with until you physically explore this. Ask your facilities manager for a walk through and lesson a week before you plan to use the system. Then if anything doesn't work, you can adapt your plan.
If the school system is lacking or sounds bad, it's not worth using. See if someone in the community can loan you equipment. Most bands have what you will need.
Will your students be singing into a microphone or two, or more? If you are lucky, there are one or two suspended overhead that the kids don't even see. They can stand together, sing and be heard. But this is more common in high schools and junior highs than in elementary schools.
If your school has a mic or two, you'll need to know what kind of mic it is. Is it uni-directional (for 1 voice only) or omni-directional (good for many voices)? This lets you teach children how to step up to the mic in the right position (a hand's width away).
Safety First: Make sure they can see and avoid stepping on or over any microphone or speaker cables.
Giving the students a chance to practice using the sound equipment without an audience is wonderfully helpful and their parents may even thank you for keeping them safe.
Quality Over Volume: Singing loudly does not mean screaming. Please teach yours students to sing with their "beautiful singing voices" on stage and not to over-sing for volume. Kids who think they have to belt out a song to be heard will wind up screaming and singing out of tune. They just need to understand that the microphone will do the work of carrying their voices. Once they know their families can see and hear them, they can concentrate on the quality of their sound.
STEP SIX: BRAVELY LEAD THE MUSIC!
You've got this! Or maybe you are not so sure about that... but either way, we encourage you to model creative courage and fake it til you make it. The kids need you.
First of all, it's helpful to lead your students hands- free if you can. Your hands will be great for conducting the beat, signaling chord changes and so much more.
Second, find a place to kneel or stand where the students can see your face. This may off to the side (in the wings) or best yet, down in front of the stage, facing the students where you can see every child and they can see you.
From this visible position, you can bring students to attention before they sing. You can give them the first "initial" singing pitch of their song to sing together before they begin! You can also hold large lyric signs if needed, signal hand motions, or move your arms to help them keep the beat.
Third, smile smile smile. They need to see your encouraging face.
Fourth, rehearse the songs in performance order to work on transitions. If something isn't sounding right, it is fine to stop, fix what doesn't go well and start again. This is your best opportunity to teach kids that mistakes are stepping stones, not stumbling blocks. You can polish the music together. (Thank you to GITC faculty trainer and board member, Joan Maute for sharing that phrase with GITC!)
From their position on stage, at the end of the last song, the children can learn to take a bow and practice timing that bow together. This makes for a very impressive finish! During rehearsal, practice bows and watch their anticipation and pride blossom.
STEP SEVEN: MAKE A GRACEFUL EXIT
Last but not least comes leaving the stage in the proper order, carefully, no one tripping. If you have rows, it can look good to leave the stage, back row first. Kids in the front can keep looking adorable while the back row clears out, then they will follow you. But if crowding prohibits that, do what works!
But where are they going? In what direction and where to?
Who are your line leaders? How will they know when and where to go? Will an adult be ready at the base of the stairs to give students a hand stepping down? This can be a wonderful job for a parent.
If you appoint and educate your line leaders, teach kids where to go, what to do once there, and practice their song cues, you can expect and excellent performance. Then some practice leaving the stage and transitioning back to their designated seats - or out the door - assures a graceful exit.
This may require a few tries to get it right but the safety and confidence that this practice can impart to the children will really pay off in the end and set good habits for future performances.
And what happens after show is over? Flowers? Food? A party? Don't be afraid to dream big. Your students and family members might love a celebration of some kind and you will definitely deserve one!
TEACHING STUDENTS POSITIVE CRITIQUE SKILLS
When you get back to class, you may want to give the students a chance to process what happened and how they feel about that. Keeping everything positive is critical for young children. Setting ground rules first will help. "No put downs" is important. Practicing compassion is beautiful. If someone made a mistake or had trouble, the group can learn how to listen, understand and give support.
You might ask students to share what did they feel they did well as a group - and why? What worked? Ask what they think might have been better if only? What could they try doing differently next time to get a better outcome?
Acknowledge personal gains. Who achieved a personal goal? By leading a positive discussion in which students practice giving and receiving compliments, this will deepen their learning from the performance experience and build their self awareness and self esteem. The Arts always give us beautiful and unique ways to grow.
We hope that putting the time into considering this preparation process has been helpful. Our hope is that you as a leader will also gain a true sense of accomplishment and pride in yourself and in your students. Their success is your success and yours is theirs.
We'd love to hear about your performance and see photos and video if you want to share! And feel free to comment, add tips, etc. You can also send anything you want to tell us about to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading.
By Abby Dorsey
When GITC Faculty Trainer and Teaching Artist, Jefferson Jay, talks about Patti Steele, one of the kindergarten teachers he works with at Paradise Hills Elementary, his entire face lights up.
“She’s just awesome,” he says. “I think she might actually be a superhero.”
As a Faculty Trainer, Jefferson helps teachers like Ms. Steele incorporate Guitars in the Classroom curriculum into their teaching on a daily basis. The job fits his personality perfectly, because he is outgoing, funny, and supportive – part music-instructor, but also part cheerleader. Jefferson teaches 22 teaching artist residency classes with GITC each week, in five different schools. He finds the work he does training and supporting the classroom teachers to be exceptionally rewarding.
This week, Ms. Steele’s class is working on a unit about goal setting, based on the book Pogo Pig Learns About Goal Setting by Bryan Sommer and Lindsay Nahmiache. After the students pick out ukuleles, they take their spots on the classroom’s colorful carpet. Then with ukulele in hand, Ms. Steele leads them through a song they’ve written together to explore the theme. Collaborative student songwriting on academic and social-emotional topics is one hallmark of GITC’s innovative approach to help students build literacy skills and language proficiency.
“Set a goal. Make a plan. Practice, practice, practice – I know you can!” the students sing enthusiastically, while strumming along. This simple, repetitive message helps the students break down the goal setting process into manageable steps, and the tune is catchy! Jefferson can’t help but sing and strum, too.
But Jefferson remembers a day when even star-teacher, Patti Steele, was struggling. “I got to her class and she was kind of frustrated. The kindergartners were wearing her out a little bit, but she said ‘I’ve got this song…’”
Ms. Steele was referring to the first song she had ever written on her own – an assignment she’d just completed for Jefferson’s second semester GITC guitar class. She was nervous to perform it for the children but Jefferson encouraged her to go for it. And in front of a carpet full of wide-eyed kindergartners, Patti Steele sang her very first song!
The song changed her whole mood because the kids were into it and she was getting good feedback,” explains Jefferson.
“I gave her some tips and had her sing it a few times in a row, and the kids loved it. Towards the end of class, we even sent the kids to write their own songs from scratch because they were inspired. It was a great class.”
As a longtime musician, open-mic host and champion of the San Diego music scene, Jefferson knows a great performance when he sees it. When he’s not teaching GITC classes, he coordinates the San Diego Music Hall of Fame, and is developing the first animated musical featuring all special needs actors. But it’s GITC teachers like Patti Steele that really have his heart.
“My favorite part is finding a place to connect with the teachers,” explains Jefferson. “And knowing that all the future students down the line will benefit.”
Hello, GITC Reader! I am Sophia Beltz, a 13 year old aspiring singer/songwriter from Pennsylvania. Music has been my passion for as long as I can remember. I hope that one day I can make a name for myself and share my passion with others.
In today’s world, it is very common that people of my age are not given a chance for their voice to be heard. However, on January 23, 2019, I was given the opportunity to speak out on something I am very passionate about - women in the music industry. An organization known as GAMA, Guitars and Accessories Marketing Association, approached me back at the Nashville NAMM show in the summer of 2018. They wanted me and two other women to speak out on women in the music industry and how manufacturers can tend to treat us. GAMA is a group of professionals in the music products industry who make or distribute guitars, ukuleles and related musical accessories. They gather to create and support ways of making these instruments better understood and more widely available.
It was such an amazing experience to present for a room full of adults who were really ready listen to what I had to say. A common theme when companies are trying to appeal to women is adding sparkles and pink to anything and everything they can. Even though, yes, there are plenty of women who love sparkles, pink, and flowers, that doesn’t apply to every woman. Every woman is different and deserves to have a guitar that she loves and that makes her feel comfortable - whether that be sparkly pink, or a simple spruce top dreadnought.
I hope my messages about equality and diversity were received, and that they are taken into consideration on how to be more inclusive in the work environment. I wish that not only women, but all people of different races, ethnicities, and lifestyles have a chance to have their voices heard in the industry.
In the following days, I was approached by many people at the NAMM show who had been there for the panel. Not only did I get to discuss women in music further, but I also had a chance to learn about so many different businesses and products. One of them being an amazing organization known as GITC, Guitars in the Classroom. I was approached by the founder and executive director, Jessica Baron. I was lucky enough to be invited to the breakfast they held for the sponsors. I’ll never forget sitting in a circle of 60 strangers and being able to connect and play songs together.
The 2019 NAMM show was such a delightful experience that I would gladly do over. I learned so much about the behind
the scenes in business and how to talk/present myself better when talking to different people. Not only were the people amazing, but the instruments were too! The variety of styles and models of guitars and ukuleles still get me excited thinking about them. From Martin and Godin guitars to Mahalo ukuleles. I love how a company can take an instrument and make it so much of their own.
There is nothing I would ever want to change about the experience I had the week of the 2019 NAMM show. I am so excited to see what comes with all of the knowledge and connections I have gained. The people and the environment were all so positive. I hope with everything in me that it continues to be that way, so that when my generation does take on the world and continues to spread the joy of music, we can always count on NAMM to be a positive stepping stone in our journey.
You can follow Sophia's musical journey on facebook HERE.
By Jennifer Hughes
March 5, 2019
Acoustic guitars, no matter the size and shape, are affected by humidity and temperature. Whether it’s an inexpensive starter guitar, a mid-range acoustic guitar below $1500 or a high-end professional model, it can get damaged when subjected to low or high humidity and extreme changes in temperature.
How Humidity and Temperature Affect Acoustic Guitars
Humidity refers to the amount of water vapor or moisture in the air. A low humidity means the air is drier, while a high humidity means there’s a lot of moisture in the air. Relative humidity is the amount of moisture in your surroundings relative to the amount of moisture the air can hold before the saturation point is reached. As the temperature increases, so does the air’s ability to hold additional water.
Changes in relative humidity, along with changes in temperature, cause damage to an acoustic guitar. The wood on acoustic guitars reacts to humidity in the same way that other types of wood do. It swells when it’s too moist and it shrinks when it’s too dry. When a guitar is exposed to dry conditions for a long period of time, it loses its stored moisture and the wood shrinks.
This may result in cracking, the frets protruding and the action getting low with lots of fret buzz. A too-dry acoustic guitar that has shrunk puts a lot of strain on the top, compromising the structural integrity, play-ability and sound of a guitar.
If a guitar is exposed to excessive humidity, the seams may separate, the action may become unplayable and the bridge may come loose. These kinds of damage are why it’s important to make sure you store your guitar in a place with ideal levels of humidity.
How to Keep Your Acoustic Guitar in Good Playing Condition
The ideal humidity range for all acoustic guitars is 45 to 55 percent. Here are some tips to follow to make sure you protect your guitar from the ravages of extreme humidity and temperature changes:
Final tip: If you are unsure of the extent of the humidity and temperature damage to your guitar and what you need to do to fix it, don’t hesitate to bring it to a guitar technician right away. There’s no quick fix or restoration process for acoustic guitars, so it’s best to leave the repairs to the pros.
Friends, every January in Anaheim, California our non-profit holds a special breakfast on Sunday morning to bring the great people who make GITC possible together for a fun time. We honor special individuals, break bread together, and after eating, we play music.
This year, we honored Robert Godin, luthier, humanitarian and 15 year sponsor of our work in the schools. He received the Biggest Heart for Children Award. The guitars you see below are all donated by Godin Guitars, as is the unusual instrument you see - a Merlin! You can read the quote on Robert's award if you zoom in.
Ukuleles were generously supplied by Kala Brand Music, Saga Musical Instruments and Korg Soundtree!
We also honored Marion Davison for her 12 years of service on our faculty before retiring from teaching...and for replacing herself with a new GITC instructor in Victorville. She received the first ever Golden Guitar Award.
We celebrated two wonderful MI sponsors this time... Guitar Center for their incredibly generous support of our work in LAUSD schools received the Sponsor of the Year Award 2019.
Next for their excellent new local support of our Kansas programs, Chris Meikle and Alvarez Guitars received the award for New Sponsor of the Year, 2019.
Take a gander through these happy and engaged faces. We are exceptionally grateful to brilliant photographer Alan Hess of Alan Hess Photography for donating his talent and time.
We will be labeling these photos as time permits. In the meantime we hope you enjoy looking through them. Maybe you will see someone you know...or yourself!
Dr. Bruce Robbins: Artist, Advocate, and GITC Music Hero
If you stop at the Mission Hills Wine Cellar in San Diego one evening you may get lucky. It may be the evening that Dr. Bruce Robbins performs, playing his guitar for the patrons. From popular folk rock tunes to impressive classical pieces, Bruce uses his life-long love of music to give back. At the end of the evening, he donates the money dropped in his tip jar to Guitars in the Classroom.
It’s his way of giving the joy of music he experienced throughout his life to children of the next generation. Bruce was intent on science from a young age. He studied biochemistry at Stanford, and spent his undergraduate summers working at the Scripps Research Institute in a biochemistry lab. He chose a career in pathology because of his love for laboratory work and medical research. Bruce's credentials are impressive. He worked for 36 years as a pathologist in the Scripps Hospital system in San Diego. His work included sub-specialty expertise in immunology and leukemia/lymphoma diagnosis as well as multiple administrative roles including Medical Director of the Scripps Mercy Hospital clinical laboratory, and president of a private pathology laboratory business. He is a graduate of Stanford University and UCSD School of Medicine. He completed his anatomic and clinical pathology residency training at Mercy Hospital and Medical Center, and followed that with a fellowship in immunopathology at Scripps Clinic. He has several board certifications and is an author on many original research publications.
Bruce grew up in the Los Angeles area. Music was an important part of his life from a very early age. When he was in elementary school he took trumpet lessons and learned to read music. At age 11 his parents gave him his first guitar and he took lessons for a few months. At the time, folk songs were very popular and Bruce learned basic chords, strumming and fingerpicking by listening to Kingston Trio records. He discovered he had a gift - he could listen to a tune or composition, and was able to intuitively figure out how to play it on his instrument.
In middle school Bruce’s best friend was a very good guitar player who loved rock and folk rock. Bruce loved both those music genres too and spent many happy hours learning from his friend, listening to albums and working out how to play his favorite songs. Bruce has fond memories of jamming with his friend and his twin brother, especially around campfires during camping trips. For 25 years he played for fellow alums and their families at the annual Stanford Alumni Camp. As his three kids were growing up, music was a large part of the Robbins’ family culture. His passion for music became a family legacy. Bruce established a tradition with his kids of playing music at bath time and bedtime and they had favorite pieces they loved. All three children still have guitars, and one also plays the piano.
Music continued to be a part of his life throughout his education and career. While Bruce was in residency, he took classical guitar lessons for almost a year. For the next 15 years he focused mostly on classical music. He said his early training in finger picking and reading music came in handy during these years and he was able to refine those skills. It was a fun challenge for Bruce to teach himself complex classical guitar pieces, measure by measure. It typically took him six months to work out a new piece. By the end, he was able to play the piece from memory.
In recent years, Bruce has been learning fingerstyle arrangements of popular music, including rock, folk, country, and ragtime. He says that these are much easier for him to learn. He estimates that he learned over 80 new fingerstyle arrangements in the last five years! These arrangements are pure acoustic guitar, with melody and accompaniment. Bruce says, “I don’t sing unless other people sing with me.” (Singing has been known to break out spontaneously at the Wine Cellar, especially in the later hours….)
RETIREMENT MEANS MORE MUSIC & SERVICE
When Bruce was planning his retirement from Scripps, he started to think about how he wanted to spend his time. He and his wife Elaine feel they have been very fortunate in life, and it is their responsibility to share their good fortune. It was natural for Bruce to consider how he could give back to the two areas in his life that had the biggest impact: medicine and music. His passion for community service started in medical school when he spent a summer studying Spanish in Antigua, Guatemala and tropical medicine in Costa Rica. He returned to Guatemala the following summer to volunteer at the Behrhorst Clinic in Chimaltenango, which provides much-needed medical care for the indigenous Mayan population. In 2015 Bruce and Elaine returned to Guatemala on a tour sponsored by the Behrhorst organization (now called ALDEA- please click on the name to learn more). During the tour they visited Mayan villages and saw first hand the work that ALDEA is doing to enhance the health and well-being of Mayan families. This experience rekindled Bruce’s passion and commitment to ALDEA’s mission. He joined their Board of Directors in 2016, and now travels to Guatemala 3 times a year.
WHEN BRUCE MET GITC
Bruce turned to research to find a nonprofit that makes a difference with music. When he learned about GITC he was sold on its mission and its model. “GITC is a brilliant program,” he said. “They have a ‘big picture’ approach: they train people to train people so there is an exponential growth that doesn’t cost too much. The instruments are donated. Open tuning makes it easy for kids to learn, and it’s easy to adapt so all students can do it. The program is far-reaching and sustains itself.” The fact that GITC headquarters are in San Diego is an extra bonus for him!
Now that he is retired, Bruce’s musical goal is to keep playing and learning. He was determined to overcome his innate shyness and started performing in public. He is now a familiar figure at the Mission Hills Wine Cellar, and the more he performs, the more confident he feels. He sets up his tip jar and displays information about GITC so patrons can learn about the organization. Customers of the Wine Cellar love that he plays for a cause, and have been very generous in making contributions. All proceeds then go to GITC.
GITC’s founder and executive director, Jess Baron, is a fan. She explains, “Music is positive part of Bruce's life. He didn't want to make it his career, but it has enriched his whole life, been a treat for his family and friends, and now he uses his music to help kids. He shows us what a well-rounded life, lived in balance, can look like and how music is not, contrary to pop culture, about super stardom. For Bruce, it's about passion, endurance and using one's gifts artfully.
I also admire that even though he has a finely tuned musical ear, Bruce doesn’t solely depend on it. He has grit- that element responsible for helping us human beings achieve success. He finds the original fingerstyle arrangement to any piece he loves and takes it apart, analyzing how he will approach interpreting it. You could say he puts his clinical mind to work understanding the mechanical and musical possibilities of what his heart has fallen for. He uses a classical hand position to get around the neck on songs that are anything but classical, which he plays gently, with precision.
Bruce is also courageous. A natural introvert, he has learned to successfully navigate the social space at his gigs in a humble way to share his music. Other performers who enjoy being the center of attention will make an effort to quiet the room, but Bruce actually enjoys playing while his audience punctuates his stylings with warm conversation. So if you go to Mission Hills Wine Cellar, please say hi and tell him you read this blog, but feel free to chat during his set. He doesn't mind a bit.
GITC is deeply blessed by Bruce and his fascinating wife Elaine, as well as the crowd at the Mission Hills Wine Cellar. Thank you to each of you who donate to his San Diego tip jar so that our charity can bring musical learning to children in need in the local schools.”
Bruce has spent his life enjoying the gift of music, and is thrilled to be sharing it with others. Now, through GITC, the impact Bruce is making with his music is far-reaching. He is providing an opportunity for thousands of children to discover their own gift of music and carry it with them throughout their lives.
If you would like to be notified of Bruce’s gig dates at the Mission Hills Wine Cellar, feel free to email him at email@example.com.