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MU Professor, Student Giving Back Through Local Guitars For Vets Program

Reported by: Send eMail Kaylin Searles
Reported: Jul. 1, 2014 2:55 PM EDT
Updated: Jul. 2, 2014 12:11 PM EDT
Eyewitness News Photo
Eyewitness News Photo

Charleston , Kanawha County , West Virginia

A Marshall University associate professor and student are putting their guitar playing skills to use and giving back to the community.

Julio Alves, associate professor of music, and Jonathan Thorne, a senior music major, are putting their expertise to good use and teaching veterans how to play guitar through the Guitars for Vets (G4V) program at the VA Medical Center in Spring Valley.

G4V is a federally registered not-for-profit founded in 2007 with headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisc. Through the program, local veterans are taught how to play guitar by volunteers such as Alves and Thorne.

Alves said the experience is mutually beneficial for veterans and volunteers.

“It’s a great opportunity to give back to those who have served the country so bravely,” Alves said. “And it is an opportunity for John and others to develop even further.”

G4V has more than 150 volunteers throughout its 40 chapters. The G4V website said the program is dedicated to sharing the healing power of music with veterans suffering from significant combat-related mental and emotional stress, particularly post-traumatic stress.

Guitars for Vets pursues its mission by providing free, private guitar instruction, a practice guitar, accessories and a method book in a structured program run by volunteers primarily through the VA facilities.

Local veterans are speaking out about the benefits of the program.

“Personally, I’ve been trying to play for 12 or 13 years,” veteran Dave Ball said. “With Jonathan’s instruction, it’s been coming a whole lot easier. It’s a good hobby to have, I just really enjoy it. I like country music. That’s the good thing about Jonathan, he can adapt to teach you whatever your interest is.”

Melissa Stillwell, chapter coordinator, said it takes 12 weeks of instruction for a student to graduate. The organization then gives the volunteer a new guitar, complete with accessories. So far, Guitars for Vets has given more than 20,000 lessons and distributed more than 2,000 new guitars to veterans.

Thorne said the program "is really a fantastic way to get people interested in playing music. Playing guitar gives you something to take your mind off of your daily troubles. Music is such a great thing; it’s like escapism where you can get away from the bad parts of the world for a while.”



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