The best way to understand what it’s like to participate as a Guitars Not Guns volunteer is to hear it straight from those who have done it. This post is part of an interview series where we try to share the experiences of our volunteers.
Meet Michael Cypher-Tierney, who teaches classes…
Why did you decide to volunteer for GNG?
Michael: Currently, I am a third year Economics and Spanish student at The Ohio State University. I’ve always had a passion for music and always try to share music with everyone I know. I have been apart of OSU’s radio club (AROUSE) for all three years of my undergraduate career. Every semester we put together fundraisers to support local organizations.
In Spring of 2018, we came across Guitars Not Guns and as an organization we did a fundraiser and were able to raise over $400. Ever since I first read the organization’s mission statement, I knew I wanted to be apart of it.
Six months later, I was taking a course in Urban Social Problems, and I was looking for ways to give back to the community. I’ve been playing the guitar since high school, so I applied to be a volunteer guitar teacher. Both my parents are teachers, and I have always thought that there is nothing more important in this world than education.
In my eyes, Guitars Not Guns is a way to transcend the traditional classroom, instill music in the hearts of youth, while making a difference in disadvantaged communities.
What has the experience been like for you so far?
Michael: It has been amazing. As a 20 year old, this has been my first real experience with teaching, and I have been learning a lot.
In college you kind of forget the passion, curiosity, and energy that kids bring with them every day. It has been amazing seeing how interested these kids are in learning new things about the guitar, challenging themselves and their peers to constantly become better.
It warms my heart seeing a kid master a song or a technique and you can see their excitement. Observing this kind of enthusiasm has been an incredibly rewarding process and is helping me become the best person I can be.
Why do you believe helping to execute GNG’s mission is a worthwhile
use of your free time?
Michael: I’ve seen statistics about economic mobility in disadvantaged neighborhoods. I know how important education and having role models are in the development of children, and I see no better way to spend my time giving back to the community, educating the younger generation, and sharing music.
I’ve always thought about how if I was a part of a program like this when I was younger, it would have had such positive affects on my future. Looking forward, I can be one of those role models who introduce music or the guitar to children at a young age. And, even if only one of our students keeps with the guitar after the program, I know I will have made a difference.
What’s one moment during your volunteer time that stands out to you
Michael: There’s a student named Leo who is extremely shy. Every week, we notice significant differences in his demeanor. Practicing and playing the guitar is helping him get out of his shell and finding out who he is as a person. It is just so incredible seeing these students pick things up so quickly.
Another example was seeing a student master all four songs so well that she could play them without sheet music. These kinds of things make volunteering so worth it.
What do you hope for in the future for GNG and/or for you as a
Michael: My hope has always been to expand GNG to Ohio State. Although this is quite a big goal, it can be done in time. I want to impact the lives of more students and offer the program to as many kids as possible. I want to see progress, interest, and a continuation of the skills these kids learn from this program. I want to serve as a role model for kids in GNG and help them navigate their future.
If this sounds like the kind of volunteer experience that you are looking for. Let us know you’re interested, so we can talk about getting you involved.