’Beauty and the Beast’ yields even more beauty

Guitar lessons at Mesquite helped by RMES

’Beauty and the Beast’ yields even more beautyWhen Ridgecrest Musical Enrichment Society members put on the musical “Beauty and the Beast” last year, their goal was to raise funds to supplement local school music programs where state budget woes were forcing cuts. Now their efforts are paying off.

Marla Cosner, who teaches history and music at Mesquite Continuation High School, is also an RMES member. While she has been teaching piano as an elective for several years, the students had been asking for beginning guitar classes.

Money RMES donated allowed Mesquite officials to purchase 10 acoustic guitars and 10 method books.

“Mesquite has no music budget. We’re very lucky to have a music class at all,” said Cosner. “This project really spoke to RMES’ mission. Where music is being cut everywhere else in the state, we were able to start a music program. What’s really wonderful is that we can use the guitars over and over.”

Cosner’s major in college was in music, specifically viola and voice. While she plays piano, she had no previous experience with guitar.

“I figured I could stay one lesson ahead of the kids, and they wanted it so much, so I said, ‘Let’s go for it.’”

The semester-long class proved so popular that enrollment for the next class doubled.

“The community has also been donating to our program,” she said. “The Salvation Army and several individuals have donated guitars so we can accommodate the growing interest in the program.

“We teach basic chords and fingering patterns. The students learn about 12 songs during the semester.”

She said she noticed that some students were choosing to repeat the class because they enjoyed it so much. “They help the new students. We have several students who already played guitar and could be teacher’s assistants. That helped so much! It’s very much a collaborative effort. The students just jumped on board.”

Class size is a big factor to Cosner. Having already taught at six different schools in the Sierra Sands Unified School District, she knows she would be handling up to 35 students per class elsewhere. At Mesquite, classes are smaller, with 17 to 20 students per music class, allowing more individual instruction with each student.

Another aspect of student involvement that she finds intriguing is how the students in the guitar class contribute to the overall ambience.

“One of the students brought in a water percolator, and they all started bringing in herbal teas. This was all their idea. They brought in mugs, and they’re enjoying trying different herbal teas. We sit in a circle and sip tea and play guitar,” she said.

In her piano class, she teaches classical music. “We do Beethoven and Mozart. I insist they all learn to read music. Some of them would never choose to play Beethoven, and they think it will be hard, but by the end of the class they find they like it.”

“I love our school! I learn from the kids — they teach me how to celebrate individuality. It touches my heart every day.”

Story First Published: 2013-07-17