The Benicia Middle School Guitar Club began eighteen years ago after Keith Jordan, the BUSD psychologist at the time, secured a grant to implement an after school program for at-risk students. His schedule prohibited him from actually teaching the class so he asked Mr. Garcia (a musician) and Mr. Calderwood (woodshop) to direct the students. Mr. Garcia and Mr. Calderwood ran the program for sixteen years and have since passed the torch to Mr. Rodgers (sixth grade science) and Mr. Frederick (woodshop) who are in their third year of supervising the program.
The Guitar Club is open to all eighth grade students. During the first week of September eighth graders are invited to attend the Guitar Club meeting. Attendance at the first meeting has been as high as two hundred and as few as fifty. At this initial meeting, students learn what it will take to become a part of the Guitar Club and eventually make a guitar. As Mr. Rodgers explains, it takes patience and perseverance to take a block of wood and turn it into a guitar in five months. Only the very passionate will see it through to completion, so the “Want-o-Meter,” was developed to find those eighth graders who have the passion. This year 50 students attended the first meeting. Those who make the commitment are allowed to miss only two Fridays during the semester. Miss a third and you forfeit your membership. The 2012 Guitar Club currently has fifteen passionate members.
“I feel very blessed to be continuing the tradition of this club here at BMS. As a sixth grade teacher I seldom interact with the eighth graders, and I get a chance to interact with students who share the passion. I always leave guitar club in a better mood than when I start, and I’ve started each session this year feeling fantastic,” says Mr. Rogers.
Most of these students have never used a power tool, and for many, this is the last chance for woodshop experience. The club goes beyond just making a guitar–the kids who participate learn one of life’s most important lessons: great things take great effort. In this world of immediate gratification, these students spend five months turning a block of wood into their own highly personal, unique creation.