Salk school seeks guitar donations for class

by Jim Boyle

For every guitar collecting dust in an Elk River closet, there’s likely a middle school student who could put it to good use.

Salk Middle School in Elk River issued a plea this past week for unused guitars — acoustic and electric.

Students taking music exploration as sixth-graders would welcome a chance to play on real guitars. They have been able to use shred necks (a short guitar-like instrument), which give the tactile sense of playing a guitar but not the auditory sense.

“They’re great up to a point,” said Phil DeRosier, a middle school band and music exploration teacher. “You don’t get the audible feedback, so you don’t know if you’re playing (a note) right or wrong. You don’t get the sense of sound.”

DeRosier and Keri Sollitt, a colleague at Salk Middle School, taught the new music exploration class to about 56 students this year, and will continue to next year. The class has been taught throughout the Elk River Area School District.

Students have reacted quite positively to the new opportunity. DeRosier is thrilled every time a student asks to bring music home to practice, which is not a requirement of the class.

“That’s what education is all about,” DeRosier said. “When I get a kid saying can I do (learn) more.”

Donated instruments can be dropped off at the front office at Salk Middle School. School officials will ask for a name, address and phone number.  “We’d like to be able to say thank you to them,” DeRosier said.

The class is a first step in the Elk River Area School District’s effort to rebuild its band and music program. It lost something when the district broke into middle schools and eliminated sixth-grade music for many students.

Students could choose band, choir or study hall. Now they can choose band, choir or music exploration.

The class has received praise from staff and students alike. Some in the class even asked for and received guitars for Christmas this past year.

The district plans to survey music exploration students about an interest in guitar, piano and electronic music classes, and may consider adding a class or two in the fall of 2013.

But sixth-graders going into seventh grade only had the choice of band, choir or study hall for the coming school year.

Music exploration is just as it sounds. It’s not a performance class, but students are getting a taste of performing with hands-on experiences with boomwhackers, keyboards, shred necks, and Garage Band on iPads.

Some students have surprised themselves at how much talent they have, DeRosier says.

And after filming a video for the Elk River Area School Board, students were seen in classrooms giving high fives.

Of DeRosier’s 26 students, 25 said the class has been a positive experience.