This is the philosophy behind No Fret Guitar Camp, a Tampa Bay-based charitable organization that partners with churches around the United States to provide children with the skills and equipment they need to learn how to play guitar.
The best part: It’s all free for the kids. Volunteer instructors provide 10 hours of no-cost lessons. Upon completion, each child receives an acoustic guitar.
“We want to teach children how to play music to help them better connect with God,” program founder Gary Brosch said. “I wanted to give them a gift that keeps on giving.”
Brosch plays guitar during services at St. James United Methodist Church in New Tampa.
When asked about how he came up with the idea for the program, Brosch said: “It was not my idea, and it was definitely God who made it possible.”
Brosch was on a mission trip to South Africa to install computers and the internet at a school. He purchased a few guitars from a shop in Johannesburg and brought them back to the kids at the school. He taught them a few basic chords and some songs to use them in, then left the guitars with the children.
When he returned, his wife Barbara said that he should do the same for other children back home. He talked it over with some of his friends and decided to turn the idea into reality.
Brosch started small with three churches in 2016. He then realized that the program could be “much bigger than [he] initially thought.”
He put together a package with all the necessary information so that churches could easily adopt and run the program themselves. The package includes sheet music, song lyrics and a day-by-day outline for instruction.
“We teach them basic open chords in the key of G because a lot of worship songs are in that key, which makes it easy for them to learn the songs,” Brosch said.
Brian Crawford, an instructor with the program, helped Brosch put together the instructional package. Crawford plays in the praise band at Temple Terrace UMC.
“We don’t beat them to death with theory or repetition. With just a few chords you can play hundreds of songs,” Crawford said.
The lessons are held on site at the participating church in five two-hour lessons over the course of a week. Crawford said, “most kids are totally green” but can still easily grasp the material.
Of course, the kids need something on which to play the material. That’s why the program provides free guitars upon completion.
The guitars are custom made for the program. They have their own brand of guitars called Matthew 6:25, named after the Bible verse that tells us not to worry; hence, the name “No Fret Guitar Camp.”
The guitars are high quality and acoustic-electric, which means they can be used for playing on stage in a live worship service setting. Brosch said that he wanted to give the children an instrument that would last for many years and that could even be used in the pursuit of a music career.
|Ministry founder Gary Brosch|
As is often the case when working with children, Brosch has faced some challenges. In trying to expand the network of churches, Brosch attempted some internet marketing strategies, but he was met with a slew of technical challenges.
Trying to teach a child with special needs was another challenge. The child was having difficulty grasping the material and following directions. After praying about the situation, Brosch noticed the child’s innate rhythmic ability and encouraged him to tap on the guitar and use it like a percussion instrument instead. This resonated with the child and helped open him up to instruction and performance.
Despite the roadblocks, Brosch says, “The program has succeeded through word of mouth” and is now in place at more than 40 churches, with many more on the horizon.
They also are considering creating a follow-up program to teach more advanced techniques to the students who want further instruction.
As a volunteer-based organization, they are always looking for talented instructors to help teach the children. According to Crawford, all that is required for instructors is “basic skill and a commitment to teaching.”
If you would like to get involved and share your talents for a great cause, contact Gary Brosch at (813) 597-1925.
--Jordan Chronister is a freelance writer based in Tampa.