Guitars Not Guns offers creative outlet at Children's Village


Sixteen girls at Oakland County’s Children’s Village are the first recipients of guitars and guitar lessons from the Michigan Chapter of Guitars Not Guns, a national organization founded on the belief in the power of connecting at-risk youth with a creative outlet, County Executive L. Brooks Patterson announced last Thursday.

“We are grateful that organizations like Guitars Not Guns support the at-risk kids at Children’s Village,” Patterson said. “It takes many resources to get these youth back on track. The job is a lot easier with support from the community.”

Children’s Village Manager Joanna Overall agreed. “At Children’s Village, we always look for ways to increase the likelihood of success when our residents leave here. We are honored that Guitars Not Guns has chosen Children’s Village as the first recipient to launch its program in Michigan,” she said.

The Michigan chapter was founded by Bret Hoag, a special lecturer of classical and jazz guitar at Oakland University; Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Frank Szymanski of the Family Juvenile Division in Detroit;
and Tony Bittick, a youth counselor from Clarkston who has always looked for ways to give back. Szymanski is also a musician.

“Using music as a catalyst, the plan is to encourage children and teens to use their creativity to foster personal development and to help divert them from the destructive influences of drugs, alcohol, and gang-related violence,” Szymanski said. “The basic concept is to provide guitars and lessons at no cost to foster children and at-risk youth in a classroom setting with qualified teachers as an alternative to violence. Students that complete the program are given their very own guitars to continue to learn and play.”

Hoag and two of his students have already begun instructing the girls at Children’s Village. The guitars were provided by Guitar Center and funded by Walk the Beat, a 501(c) 3 corporation founded to fund musical instruction.

“We are grateful for the support that Walk the Beat provided for this class, and hope to find other people or organizations willing to support our efforts to expand the program and help more at-risk youth in the metro Detroit area,” Hoag said.

Szymanski, Hoag and Bittick are looking to expand the program across the state with the help of others who wish to be part of this mission. Guitars Not Guns’ slogan is “One Child. One Guitar. One Miracle.” For additional information, contact the Michigan Chapter of Guitars Not Guns at


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