Despite some obstacle-makers, we still observed our yearly ritual of awarding instruments to a group of our students to keep as their own during the season of giving. Congratulations to Ari (Fender electric guitar) Annie (Deering banjo) Enosh (Fender electric guitar) Gracelyn (Lanikai baritone ukulele) Florence (Lanikai baritone ukulele) Matt (Fender acoustic guitar) Isaak (Fender acoustic guitar) Timothy (Fender acoustic guitar) Kaitlyn (Fender ukulele) Isoria (Fender acoustic/electric guitar) Jadon (Deering banjo)
Starting again as a solo act
I think most people would agree that 2020 and 2021 were not the greatest of times. Strings Attached survived the pandemic of those two years with a full roster of students, uninterrupted teaching and ample funding to start 2022. But St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Ferguson ended our partnership in December, 2021, withholding our accumulated funding and forcing us out of the church building by the end of December under threat of paying storage fees for the project’s belongings.
A truly sad ending for 2021. I couldn’t have imagined a sadder ending to very worthwhile community project.
On December 26, 2021, a group of volunteers and I packed up our guitars, ukuleles and amps and left the church that had been our place of lessons, recitals, Christmas concerts and community fundraisers for 12 years. But from that experience very positive things happened ~
It gave me, as solo act, the opportunity to repay a debt to the Ferguson/Florissant School District.
As we cleared out our musical possessions from St. Stephen’s, I handed a majority of them off as donations to the Missouri Teacher of the Year, James Young – a music teacher & guitarist in the district. The donation consisted of 41 ukuleles, 35 guitars, 10 amps, an electric keyboard and a drum set. This donation will help create a pool of instruments that can be used by students in the district for their music studies.
For me, it was a good way to complete a circle of education that began in the 1970’s with Mr. Robert Cliff, a social studies teacher in the district, who created an independent study program that I was encouraged to participate in as a teenager. In that program, I was allowed to pursue my interests and to self-educate, because the school did not, and could not, provide an education in what I was interested in.
My interest was guitar. Mr. Cliff was aware of that. He was also aware that talents I had were not being attended to by the high school study offerings. Guitar was not a school subject matter in those days. It really had no place in any school music education offerings like jazz band, marching band, orchestra or choir either. I couldn’t be trained in the school system to pursue my guitar passion in college. So, he allowed me to use half of my school day to be dedicated to self-education, including working & teaching in a local music store for a salary.
At the end of each semester during high school I made a presentation to a teacher panel, including Mr. Cliff, of what I had taught myself and what my accomplishments were for the period of study.
I’m still at it 49 years later.
So on December 26, 2021 as I stood in the parking lot of St. Stephen’s and watched all those instruments drive away, I got a great deal of satisfaction knowing that the guitars, ukuleles and music accessories were going to a school district system that in years past had no place for people like me – with the exception of Mr. Cliff. I also have some satisfaction knowing that guitars and ukuleles are now part of children and teen’s education in public schools.