GUITARS NOT GUNS is an amazing after school program here in DC. When we caught up with its founder, Gregg Hammond, he talked to us about gangs, guitars and the Guiness Book of World Records! See what else he had to say...
Q. Guitars Not Guns, we love it! Please tell us what GNG's mission is and how it benefits the DC community.
A. Guitars not Guns’ (GNG’s) mission is to inspire at-risk and underprivileged youth to succeed in life by providing them music education opportunities through the use of volunteers and partnerships in their community. We help instill in them the confidence and character necessary to grow into productive members of society and responsible adults. GNG’s method is to engage the youth’s creative potential with a structured music program, taught by caring adults in a safe environment, and then couple that with our mentoring in music-related careers. We provide them free guitar lessons with the belief that the art of music connects the child to higher life goals and ambitions. We are a community based organization that provides these youth with a positive alternative to the self-destructive behaviors of substance abuse, crime, truancy and gangs. Serving the community of DC we make our streets safer. Guitars Not Guns is an all volunteer and donation based non profit with no paid employees. It comes from our hearts and our desire to make our city a shining example of what we can do around the nation and around the globe. The students are loaned a guitar at the beginning of class. If they learn 6 guitar chords and can name all the parts of the instrument they get to keep the guitar. They have earned it, and can be proud of themselves for their accomplishments.
The website for GNG is GUITARS NOT GUNS people can donate online through our "Donate Now" button on every page. We are also a member of the United
Way. Member #9319
Q. Where are the classes for the youth involved in Guitars Not Guns held?
A. Classes are held at Boys and Girls clubs, Parks and Recreation Centers, and other locations that are between a students' school and home. We are here because we are able to provide a safe alternative in places where our youth might otherwise be negatively influenced by gangs and misled peers. We are open to discussing other locations as well.
Q. Where do you get the guitars for the program? Do you accept used guitars?
A. We use our donation money to purchase new guitars for the students from Johnson guitars so that each student receives the same quality instrument as the next student.
Q. You mentioned that you will be meeting with the White House soon to discuss the possibility of your GNG students performing the guitar anthem that you wrote called "Set Me Free". Tell us about that.
A. I am working on details to have a performance of the guitar anthem "Set Me Free" written by Gregg Hammond and Vince Scheuerman for the students of GNG at the White House. I am doing this to inspire our students to believe that they can achieve success in their playing, enough to play at the White House. This will show the nation and our community that our students' success is worthy of a great performance.
Q. What was your inspiration for writing Set Me Free? (available on iTunes now)
A. Growing up as an at-risk youth, and having an electric guitar that I wanted to learn to play, but having no teachers available to me I ended up in the streets getting into trouble. I came very close to going to prison. Music, and guitar specifically, was what moved me away from that troubled life. The song "Set Me Free" brings the message that music and playing guitar can make a difference in a way that no other thing can. We all have music inside of us, and if the seed is nurtured it will grow into something magical and joyous. I wrote the song for the students of GNG to play and sing and feel the power of the music inside of them and express it.
*15% of the proceeds from sales of "Set Me Free" go to GNG DC.
Q. You also teach guitar to the general public. For those interested in taking lessons from you, how can they get in touch?
A. Interested students can go to my website DC GUITAR LESSONS for details. Emailing is the best way to be in touch with me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Q. We understand you have decided to throw down a Guiness Book of World Records challenge! Please give us the details!
A. I have been working on this for about 3 years now. I had a practice run on Oct. 31st this year. I have another practice run in April 2011. The official date in June 2011 here in DC at RFK stadium will be announced in Jan 2011. We are gathering to set the record for "the most guitarist playing the the same song at the same time in the same place".
There are some really cool details about this that everyone should know. Not only will we be setting this record, but we will also be using skype simulcast from around the globe to set the record for "The most guitarists playing the same song at the same time at the same time around the globe". The song is "Set Me Free". We are setting up a fund for the GNG students around the globe to participate at no cost to them. All details about this event are updated on DC GUITAR LESSONS as they become available. The idea is to bring our GNG students who are foster care and at-risk youth into a global event focused on playing the song that was written for them, and giving them the opportunity to be part of our global community of musicians.
Q. What are the 5 songs (and artists) that have been looping on your iPod this week?
A. Oh my, that is a hard question........ Just 5? that's not fair! okay then........ ouch. Too many songs.
1. Joe Satriani ~ Circles( Blending mellow guitar and total jam too)
2. Beatles ~ Let It Be( this song is simple yet profound)
3. Led Zeppelin ~ The Battle of Evermore( love the mandolin) I play and teach mandolin
4. Ozzy ~ Dreamer( as crazy as Ozzy seems, he knows the truth)
5. Rush ~Time Stand Still( it says what we all feel daily)
6. Jimi Hendrix ~ Little Wing ( a master guitarist at work)
I could go on forever, so many amazing guitarists out there.