Their hands are small; the guitar is small; but the music they make is big.
And it puts a huge smile on the face of Terry Hoffman, who is helping making it happen during Guitar Club at Park School.
“Watching kids learn keeps me going,” said Hoffman, who is a retired Riley School custodian. “To light the fire is the best.”
This is Hoffman’s second year teaching the after-school class at Park School. He also taught Riley School students for a couple of years.
Hoffman is a self-taught musician and his teaching philosophy is simple: Put the guitar in the hands of kids, teach them a couple of chords and turn it into a song.
“In the first week (of lessons), they can play a song.
The sooner they can play a song … they get excited,” he said. “It’s contagious. If I show one of them something, they all want to do it.
“Even when they say they can’t do something, I tell them there’s no ‘can’t’ in here,” he said. His young protégés take that lesson to heart and can be heard telling fellow students, “you can’t say can’t.”
Hoffman started playing the guitar when he was 14 and has had a band ever since. Those in Barton County with a long memory may recall The Inmates, The Collectors, Soul Arrangement and The Fugitives. His current band is Freelance.
“We play classic rock and classic country,” he said, noting however, songs he teaches kids is more on their level like “Happy Birthday.”
The Park School Guitar Club owns nine red and blue guitars that are a seven-eighth’s size and easier for kids to learn on. Since the lessons are free and the guitars are available for use, it is an easy way for them to know if it is and instrument they want to continue playing.
Hoffman has two returning students from last year and six new ones this year. Last year’s club members played small concerts at the Great Bend Senior Center and a church as well as at the Park School talent show at the end of the school year. He hopes to do the same with this group.