Guitars not Guns

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Photos by John Meiu

A unique and inspiring program held a special celebration for its first graduating class Aug. 8 at Oakland County’s Children’s Village in Pontiac.

Guitars Not Guns provides guitars and lessons to foster children and at-risk youth in a classroom setting with qualified teachers as an alternative to violence. The Michigan chapter was founded by Judge Frank Szymanski of Wayne County Circuit Court’s Juvenile Division; Bret Hoag, a classical and jazz guitar lecturer at Oakland University; and Tony Bittick, a youth counselor in Clarkston.

“This is a great story,” said Szymanski, “as we have volunteers who teach at-risk youth and foster care students to play guitar and the students receive a free guitar when they finish the program.”

Sixteen girls participated in the inaugural 6-week course.

Children’s Village, a division of Oakland County’s Department of Health and Human Services Department, provides a unique approach to treatment of youth that fall under the authority of Oakland County Circuit Court Family Court or with the State of Michigan Department of Human Services.

As part of the celebration commemorating the completion of the first class, the new guitarists put on a small performance.

Szymanski was hopeful the girls may even allow him to accompany them.

“I’ve always wanted to be in a ‘girl group!’” he joked.

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