Story and photos by AIMEE HALL
At 3 p.m. on the last Friday of every month, when most students at Jefferson Junior High School are rushing out the doors to go enjoy their weekend, about 10 to 20 students carry their acoustic, electric or bass guitars, and amps down to room 45 on the lower floor of the west wing for Guitar Club.
Some students immediately set their amps on the counter that lines the back half of the room, plug in, and begin to practice.
Others without guitars sit atop the four or five tables in the room telling one another about the new song they just learned tabs to and debating which guitarist is the best.
“Slash is like my guitar hero,” Hannah Cajandig, 13, said about the famous lead guitarist of the band Guns N’ Roses in the debate one meeting.
After six years of running the Guitar Club, Mike Hogan, a counselor at Jefferson Junior, is excited that students still look forward to the club every month.
“They’re a pretty devoted group,” he said.
Hogan’s inspiration to create the Guitar Club came after he talked with many students who liked or were interested in playing the guitar. Hogan, who is an avid collector of vintage guitars and songwriter, instantly knew he wanted to provide an outlet for the students to learn more about the guitar.
“It just seemed like something that a lot of kids thought was interesting,” he said. “For some kids, this is their life love.”
Because the club began right after the movie “School of Rock” came out, he was able to use the film as a reference to persuade students to join. In the movie, Jack Black, who pretends to be a licensed substitute teacher in order to earn money to pay his rent, teaches his junior high students how to play in a rock band. Although Hogan wouldn’t be teaching them how to play in a rock band, he would be teaching them about guitars.
The Guitar Club, which meets for one hour, is split into two parts.
In the first half, Hogan leads a discussion on anything from the history of a particular guitar model to guitar-playing techniques. He said the type of discussion has changed every year after “hearing what (the students) thought good music was and what was good to them.”
At their meeting on April 30, Hogan brought in one of his 20 or more guitars, his 1965 Gibson SG Junior, and explained why this vintage guitar is worth so much. The SG, which he bought in 2005 for $1,500 is now worth $3000, he explained.
“The rise in values that occurred in the housing market in the last decade was nothing compared to the rise of values in the vintage guitar market,” Hogan said.
He pointed out the Honduran Mahogany and Brazilian Rosewood in his SG that is now illegal to import and described the “roar” sound it produces that makes it such a great “rock” guitar.
For the second half of the club’s meeting, the students are turned lose to play their own guitars or Hogan’s if he brings one.
On the April 30 meeting, students were allowed to try Hogan’s Gibson SG. The moment his guitar was offered up, Kelly Richard, 14, grabbed the guitar and began to play “Living after Midnight” by Judas Priest.
Although the club has been in existence for several years, this is Richard’s first year in the club. Her father tried teaching her in the past, but she really began to learn when she began attending the club. Now, she can go home and practice on her father’s Taylor acoustic or his Gibson Les Paul, which is her favorite guitar. Richard said she loves the club because of “other people being around when you play.”
After finishing her song, Richard handed the electric off to Cajandig, who began to play “Blackbird” by the Beatles.
Cajandig joined the club at the beginning of the school year. She plays both the acoustic and electric guitar in her church band and has even played live on the radio once. Though she’s been playing for years, the Guitar Club has given her a chance to develop her talent.
“I like being able to see what people play cause it gives me an experience outside of my own,” she said.
Emma Briggs, 14, is next to take a try on the Gibson, and she, too, decides to show off her favorite song to play, “Blackbird.”
Briggs has been a part of the club on and off from the beginning of the school year.
“I didn’t know how to play guitar at the beginning, and I wanted to learn,” she said.
But learning to play was not her only reason for staying involved in the club.
“I like being able to hang out with people who like to do the same thing,” Briggs said.
Although Hogan said he has enjoyed running the Guitar Club, it is not the only school club he is a part of, nor is it the largest. But, based on the amount of questions and expressed interest from parents and other faculty members, it is, perhaps, the most interesting club.
“This is the one I get asked about,” Hogan said.