Guitar classes allow students to shine

Waiting list has formed for class

By Lynn Moore

NORTON SHORES, Mich. (AP) — When Tyler Jobes first saw weightlifting rather than guitar on his class schedule, the Mona Shores High School junior quickly moved into action.
He called his counselor who, recognizing the emergency at hand, pulled the appropriate strings, so to speak.

Disaster averted. Jobes was, for the seventh time, enrolled in Rodney Schaub’s award-winning guitar class.

“I’ve GOT to play guitar,” Jobes said. “If I don’t I’ll go crazy.”

Schaub’s guitar classes are some of the most difficult to get into at Mona Shores High. Waiting lists have formed for his guitar I, guitar II and guitar III classes, and dozens of students are turned away.

The “guitar methods” program was started in 2002 as a way of reaching out to students who were at risk of dropping out — students Principal Jennifer Bustard refers to as “nontraditional.” Administrators were looking to tap into student interests and guitar was an obvious choice.

So was Schaub, who Bustard said can relate to students at their level.

“For some of those students, (guitar class) is the difference between finishing high school and not finishing high school,” she said.

But the class has moved beyond those original niche students it was looking to serve. While it started with just 22 students, guitar methods now has 150 students.

“For a lot of kids, it was the only reason they would come to school,” Schaub said. “It’s a good place to hang out. They can say, ‘This is my thing and I’m really good at it.’”

The guitar program also is getting recognition from other schools, and earned Mona Shores a top award in the creative and media arts category of the Michigan Association of School
Boards’ Excellence in Education program.

Schaub said he has given presentations about the program at educational conferences. Other high schools — including Reeths-Puffer, Grand Haven and Shelby — have implemented guitar classes.

“They’re really looking to involve as many kids as they can in some kind of musical organization,” Schaub said.

The program will expand next year with a guitar ensemble class — an “elite” performance class for Schaub’s advanced students who he said haven’t had an “outlet” to display their skills. They include students like Jobes, who essentially does independent study in Schaub’s guitar I class + practicing scales that Schaub sets him up with.

Jobes had taught himself guitar when he was 10, then took a couple of private lessons. But it was in Schaub’s class that Jobes learned the most.

“I look forward to his class every day,” Jobes said. “I hear that all the time (from other students): ‘I wouldn’t come to school if it wasn’t for this class.’”

Jobes, whose dream is to be a country music singer, said he just wasn’t cut out for traditional school band programs. And, he said, he’s not alone.

“I know a lot of kids who want to play the guitar,” he said. “But the tuba?”


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