'Guitars Not Guns' aims to curb youth violence through musical exploration

A group of students in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood graduated from a music program designed to curb youth violence.

Guitars Not Guns is a volunteer program dedicated to teaching children to play the guitar, directing their energy into more positive and creative outlets.

"We’re clearly anti-gun violence," said Tim Wong, the director of Guitars Not Guns King County Chapter. "What we’re doing in our own little way is providing some alternate positive thing to keep some youth from taking a different direction."

About a dozen students participated in the eight-week program at Miller Community Center. Friday was their final week of participation. Their lead guitar instructor was Jack Ballard.

"The way I look at it is that I give them two things: learn a structure, learn the discipline and learn to overcome frustrations," said Ballard.

Guitars Not Guns, a national program, fosters personal development that hopes to divert at-risk youth away from self-destructive influences such as drugs, alcohol and guns.

Guitars Not Guns provides children between the ages of eight and 18 with guitars and lessons.

At the end of Friday’s final lesson, participating students who attended every lesson were given their equipment to take home.

"It’s a beautiful thing," said parent Moxie-Svetlana Hubbard-Shirley. "I saw my daughters taking out the guitar to deal with their stress and that’s cool."

Miller Community Center plans to host its next round of Guitars Not Guns in April.

The program is looking for musical instructors to teach and mentor upcoming students. Anyone interested is asked to contact Tim Wong at tim.wong@guitarsnotguns.org.

More on youth violence:

Youth violence in King County: Prosecutors eye ‘Safer Schools Strategy’ as solution

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