Guitars Over Guns Brings Music to Gary Comer Middle School

In this graphic, there are three different photos in the background depicting various scenes of Gary Comer Middle School students learning to play instruments in their Guitars Over Guns music class. On top of the images is a blue transparent layer. In the bottom left corner, there is blue text on a yellow background that reads "Guitars Over Guns Brings Music to Gary Comer Middle School". The Noble Schools logo is in the bottom right corner.
Published On: April 24th, 2023Categories: 2023, Campus Life, Gary Comer Middle School, Students

This is part of a series of blogs from Noble campus representatives to give a deeper look at campus life.

“Music has always been a part of my life, whether it was listening to it flow through my house or watching my sister play her electric guitar. Music is how I express myself.”

These are the thoughts and experiences that encouraged Mariah, a 7th grader at Gary Comer Middle School (GCMS), to jump at the chance to join Making the Band this year, a music mentor program run by Guitars Over Guns at GCMS on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Photo shows two people standing over a keyboard. On the left is Mariah, a student at Gary Comer Middle School. Mariah is a young Black girl with medium-length dark brown braids. She is wearing a Gary Comer Middle School polo. On the right is Kevin, one of her music mentors from Guitars Over Guns. Kevin is a young Black man who is wearing a Black t-shirt with a white logo on it for Guitars Over Guns.


Mariah and one of her mentors, Kevin, learning on the keyboard together.

This is the first time that GCMS has had a formal music class. Through the partnership with Guitars Over Guns, professional musicians are brought in from around the city to mentor students both in music and in social-emotional learning. The program has filled the halls of Gary Comer Middle School with music from guitars to drums.

Tyree, a 7th grader, plays with the drummers. Tyree says he’s learned a lot, “like 16th notes and 8th notes for drums.” He appreciates his drum mentor, Dolan.

“He genuinely tries to help you get better and learn more. You can really tell he cares and is supportive,” Tyree said.

Dolan is a professional drummer and music production specialist who plays for four different bands in the city and has been playing drums for 12 years. He says he enjoys working with GCMS scholars, especially when he “sees students connecting the dots and building their own understanding of the instrument.”


Dolan (left) works with two students, Samaria and Donovan, on the drums.

Mariah plays the guitar and also enjoys working with her mentor, Bobby.

“I usually keep my nails done so it’s a little difficult to play the guitar with the strings. Bobby helps me position my fingers so I can play correctly,” Mariah said, “He is also always energetic, silly and fun to be around. You can tell he really cares.”

The program director of Guitars Over Guns – Dominic, or “IB” as the scholars call him – says he loves to see the students’ “desire to learn and push themselves.”

“Many of them are still discovering themselves,” IB said, “To be a mentor to them and give back wisdom, watching them apply it to their skills and their lives, ultimately, that is what inspires us (the mentors)”. IB started as a mentor and says that mentoring is a “labor of love” and that using music in mentoring, especially in the context of Black culture, is essential.

“Our culture is everything,” IB said.

Image shows a scene of a classroom at Gary Comer Middle School. There is a grouping of four desks in the center and two students and one mentor sit around it with instruments. Tristan, a young Black boy with short dark brown hair and glasses, sit of the leftmost side, holding a guitar. To his right and in the middle is his mentor, Bobby, a Black man with a beard and short blonde hair. Bobby is holding a trumpet and has a guitar in his lap and is wearing a dark gray suit. To the right of him is another student holding a guitar.


Guitars Over Guns mentor Bobby (center) works with two other students playing guitars.

Students now walk around with their instruments, take them home to practice, stay after school on Tuesdays to get more individualized support, and put in the work to make sure that their Town Hall performances show off their hard work and all they have learned. Students and mentors hope to continue the program for next year and the foreseeable future.

We have loved to see our students thrive in music and try new things with Guitars Over Guns and can’t wait to see more of it.

Gary Comer Middle School students performed on stage for their Town Hall presentation this month.

Guitars Over Guns is currently overseen by Mr. Minkens on Tuesday/Fridays. Our students have instruction on keyboard, drums, and guitar. Guitars Over Guns currently runs programs in Miami, Los Angeles, and Chicago with over 10 schools on the South/Southwest and West sides of the city. You can find out more about the Chicago programs at program was funded through the Ingenuity Creative Schools Fund grant.

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