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.
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.”
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.
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 guitarsoverguns.org/chicago. This program was funded through the Ingenuity Creative Schools Fund grant.