Jen Pastalo Dacpano and Nicole Severson are on a mission to bring music, song, and community into the hearts and souls of school children across the Front Range.
Dacpano, a school psychologist at East High in Denver, and Severson, a music instructor from Boulder, have already created guitar programs at 10 Denver area schools. The after-school group guitar instruction -- heavy on fun, creativity and self-expression -- lets modest and lower-income families experience the joys of guitar without the high cost of private lessons.
"Music instruction is not a privilege; it's a birthright," said Dacpano, adding that budget cuts have eliminated music courses in most Colorado public schools. The cuts have taken a vital tool away from Colorado kids. "Music builds strong students," Dacpano said. "It improves cognitive abilities, intellectual function and it also enhances social engagement."
Severson said the group guitar classes she teaches at Denver Language School, Odyssey School, Park Hill and Cory Elementary bring shy kids out of their shells, while teaching students the value of sharing, caring and singing.
"I had one student who was extremely shy and frequently bullied before he came to our classes," Severson said. "After a year of music, he came into himself and was on stage singing a Johnny Cash song."
Both women say learning to play guitar, especially in a group setting, has the power to transform the human spirit.
"It's my savior," Severson said referring to the way guitar music calms her mind and centers her soul. "It allows me to have creative expression and total joy."
The music teachers have seen students learn teamwork, encouragement and determination through guitar instruction.
"Kids are told all day what to do," Severson said. "But when they play guitar, they are free to be creative and make the music their own... Playing guitar changes kids. It builds their self-esteem and lets them grow into their authentic selves."
With government funding for luxuries like music classes at a low, Dacpano and Severson know others must step up to fill the gap.
To help the cause, Dacpano and Severson have launched an Internet-based, crowd-funding project through Kickstarter called Urban Guitar Revolution. The women will use the crowd-funding approach to support the publishing of a unique curriculum to expand guitar instruction at every school along the Front Range.
"This is a real grassroots plan to share the gift of music and save the world one guitar at a time," Dacpano said. "People have to step up if we want to keep music in our schools. Anyone who sees the value of music should be part of our revolution."
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