Guitars in the Classroom

Since 1998, Guitars in the Classroom (GITC) has been inspiring, training and equipping classroom teachers to integrate music making across the academic curriculum through "song-based instruction" so students of all ages have educational, musical access & opportunity at school every day. Our work prepares educators to lead music, employing it as a dynamic tool for reaching all learners, teaching all subjects, and building character, creativity and community.Programs & materials are free.
Mar 6, 2015

Thank You For Helping Children Learn to Read!

Teachers at Luther Burbank Elementary
Teachers at Luther Burbank Elementary

Dear Friend,

You may be asking yourself, "Why is Guitars in the Classroom thanking me for helping children learn to read? I donated to their music program. What gives?"

Recently, our organization has been focusing musical interventions in classrooms on helping students who are struggling to acquire English as a second language to improve their speaking, reading and writing skills through songs and songwriting. Your gift is making a double difference for these children because as they learn to feel, count and keep the beat, strum ukuleles, sing together and on their own, they are also learning to read.

Think back to when you first started reading. Do you remember the mystery of which way the stems to "b, d, p and q" went? Imagine growing up in a Spanish speaking household where h's are silent and j's sound like "y's", then coming to school and being expected to know how to spell words with all of those letters. Children in grade 2 who are still having trouble with these essential kinds of language components need a way to get the information into their minds and mouths that has nothing to do with a worksheet or a test. They must use them in motivating, meaningful contexts everyday.

This winter, your dollars are helping us train teachers to reverse the language learning train back into the station before it runs off the rails leaving kids behind. The teachers in underperforming schools around the US who are studying with us are writing lyrics to songs that will really matter to their specific students by teaching intial consonants, letter blends, consonant vowel consonant words and much more. By reteaching the basic letters and sounds embedded in an undeniable rhythm and melody, children are finally able to memorize, recognize and use them! We are seeing the kids enthusiastically grasping language while really loving learning through music.

This month, you can enjoy the feature piece from the Today Show that shows performer Jason Mraz interacting in a second grade GITC classroom at Luther Burbank Elementary School in Logan Heights, San Diego. This school has 100% poverty and over 70% English Learners. In that classroom filmed by the Today Show, we are coaching teacher Christine Tomkinson to also apply music to teaching skip counting! The link to the video is included in this report.

I hope you will feel proud of this work that YOU, yes you have made possible. Our work here in the barrio was funded exclusively by donations to this project! As part of the President's Committee on Arts and Humanities, our work at Luther Burbank does not receive government funding, just their inclusion in statistical outcomes after three years. Without you, we could not be participating. Now, 10 of the 13 faculty members on staff are actively training with GITC, leading and writing songs for learning, and kids in every classroom are strumming ukuleles during math, reading, social studies and science when they sing their lessons. The school is transforming from a place of conflict and suffering caused by abject poverty into a bright artistic environment with happier students and encouraged teachers. I was visiting yesterday and actually saw an 8 year old boy singing and skipping from his classroom to the office. A first!

Please stay with this project and help us create materials that teachers everywhere can use for free. We want every child to benefit from our efforts this year and your participation is necessary to make it possible. Our dream for the 2015 school year is a new place on the website with songs and lessons for English and Math learning at every grade level!

Thank you for giving us the support we need to make such a substantial difference in the lives of our neediest students. The ripple effect will be felt for generations.

Peace and grateful best wishes,


students and teachers
students and teachers


Jan 20, 2015

Thank you for fully funding our project!

Michele Harris Padron and students in Oxnard, CA
Michele Harris Padron and students in Oxnard, CA

Dear Friend,

Thank you so much for being a force for good this winter by teaming up with our organization to improve the lives of children through music. Your gift is already empowering Guitars in the Classroom to provide musical learning programs for children in high-poverty schools. With your help, we are already preparing to provide musical access, instruments to play, teacher training and songs for learning and well-being in these schools. This absolutely could not be happening without your support and desire to lift up these kids in need. A new report just came out showing that literally half of the children in America are living in poverty. This is a shocking figure and shows just how much work there is to be done. Thank you for being a problem solver!

Because of you, our 2015 programs will now reach 200 more teachers serving 18,000 public school students, most of whom are living in highly stressful situations.

Imagine Felix, a child who has never found his chance to shine, getting the chance to strum a guitar and count in his peers singing their song for math in his fifth grade classroom. He will be proud to be a leader and he LOVES music. His teacher will be coming to a GITC class every week because of you.

Imagine Serena who is six and lives in a very crowded 1 bedroom apartment in the barrio with her whole family and her mother's sister and her four children. Most of the children are sleeping on chairs or on the floor. Serena's life at home is hungry, noisy, crowded. She worries a lot. But when she sings each day, she feels peace and harmony. Her voice has its own lovely quality. She is excited to get to class each morning where her kindergarten teacher is leading music with a set of student ukuleles you helped us place in that classroom. And she can concentrate on the sounds of letters and the sequence of numbers tucked into each song. She is learning.

Imagine Emilie who has been teaching second grade for five years. She always wanted to make music as a child but her family had no money for an instrument or lessons. And her elementary school had no music program. Zero access. Now she is 30 years old and she can get a ukulele and a guitar from us for free and take a lesson every week at no charge. She will come to class early to share the lyrics she and her students will be inventing to learn grammar. She and her students will sing their original song about addition at the next parent education night. They will videotape a story song they write to go with their class play about the environment in the springtime. And every child will learn to play the ukulele this year. The quality of Emilie's teaching will become more joyful, creative and spontaneous because of you. Every year, she will be able to share music with her students because in 2015, she will become a Song Leader for Learning. In her 22 year career she alone will make a difference for 1000 children because she will wind up sharing and leading music for neighboring classrooms, for her children's kinder buddy class and after school at Music Club (which she will start). This is a realistic look at what happens when we train a really engaged teacher.

I honestly cannot thank you enough for your gift to Guitars in the Classroom. Hopefully you will check in with our facebook page to see the updates as they emerge. You will know you are someone who made it all happen. The address there is . You can also visit our website and sign up for our infrequent enewsletters if you want more information. We send out a lot of photos and some little stories there.

Thank you again from the depths of my heart. We really are making education better and I have high hopes for the twelve months ahead.

With you in gratitude and service for the children,


students in South Central LA at the Pullum Center
students in South Central LA at the Pullum Center


Dec 31, 2014

Thank you for an Autumn of Musical Learning!

Guitar at the Fernando Pullum Community Arts Cente
Guitar at the Fernando Pullum Community Arts Cente

Happy New Year, GITC Music Giver!

As 2015 begins, all of us working to bring music to learning across the curriculum with GITC want to thank you for a magnificent opening few months of school and a successful 2014!

This past fall thanks to each one of you, Guitars in the Classroom has been able to bring learning to life for children from Vermont, Massachusetts and Virginia, down the eastern seaboard through South Carolina, into the Gulf Coast region, through Michigan and clear across the country to California...then out into the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii! Your charity is making this progress and joy possible truly all over our nation as well as in parts of Canada! Teachers in Ontario continue to lead songs for learning and we are working on a pilot program now with leadership from Robert and Janet Godin in their city of Quebec. Music is ubiquitous, universal, and children benefit from singing to learn everywhere. Thanks to everyone here, the power of music is lighting up classrooms in so many places this school year.

This fall, you gave us the "fuel" to get instruments into the hands of teachers and children in classrooms in public schools that long ago lost their elementary music classes - and this feels like a miracle to kids who want so much to get the chance to learn. Teachers like Patrice Maller at Silvergate Elementary in San Diego learned to play and lead songs with GITC last summer. Now her student are writing songs regularly and playing them, too. You can read about that at our website. So are the children in Joey Sutera's class in Santee, California and you can see the joy on their faces in the photo below!  Children at the Fernando Pullum Community Arts Center in the heart of South Central Los Angeles are learning to play guitar, too thanks to donor Jim O'Brien, here at Global Giving. And this year, on Maui, teachers at the Pomaika'i Elementary School worked with their students to write and perform songs about the water cycle on their island and about marine life!  These students have not had any formal music education but this year, their teachers are introducing ukuIele and guitars thanks to you.

I hope you'll take a moment to look at these photos and really see the spark your giving has lit for these young people and their teachers. Then consider what their lives would be like if you had not given a donation.

In these challenging financial times, with your contribution, GITC has been filling a critical gap for children who need upliftment, positive engagement and creative learnng through the arts! By helping their classroom teachers intelligently integrate hands-on musical experiences as a part of learning math, science, social studies, English and so much more, you are creating lasting change in the schools. Once a teacher learns to do this work, they have the skills for life! We are also working hard to support the return of music education to these schools and this fall even began training music teachers in Los Angeles Unified Schools to lead the way. These are exciting, hopeful times.

Together, we are collaborating on developing new understandings and materials for teachers that highlight the science of music, the math and patterning of composition, the acquisition of key reading strategies through songwriting and reading lyrics! In Oxnard, CA, students who are new to America and learning to speak and read in English through songs, singing and songwriting. In Burlington, Vermont, the students have been learning American history through song. In Boston, Massachusetts, the children are singing about their futures and how to aim high. In San Diego, they are singing about the order of operations, skip counting and garden science. All this music is because we are innovating in your name.

Please donate again if you love this cause and help us do more. At GITC, we know that one day, some of the children we reach in 2015 who are unable to read now will successfully graduate high school because we do this work together. Some will become musicians, es, and others will be creative thinkers in every field... and all will be able to pass the love of music and the body of traditional folk songs on to their own children.

Thank you for all you have made possible in 2014! One classroom at a time, we are making education better. Let's keep going.

With appreciation and gratitude,


Joey Sutera
Joey Sutera's Class
Susan Tu
Susan Tu's class in Burlington, VT
GITC at Luther Burbank Elementary in San Diego
GITC at Luther Burbank Elementary in San Diego
Teachers practice water songs at Pomaikai
Teachers practice water songs at Pomaikai



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