January 19, 2024 Category: Our Programs Fresh Air Fun

The Power of Music: Building Confidence through the Guitar 

If there’s one thing children can find at summer camp, it’s adventure. From learning how to swim to hiking a mountain for the first time, there are so many different adventures children can embark on at The Fresh Air Fund. However, not all adventures take place outside. In fact, some of our campers’ favorite new adventures take place indoors – like learning how to play the guitar! 

For 26 years, The Fresh Air Fund has partnered with The ASCAP Foundation to provide musical education at camp. Through the ASCAP Foundation Fresh Air Fund Summer Guitar Project, campers have the opportunity to take guitar lessons at all six Fresh Air Fund camps!  

Learning the Basics

Guitar class at Camp ABC is always a blast. 

Many campers walk into their first class having never held a guitar before, but everyone leaves feeling like a rockstar. Tom Simmons, a musician and guitar instructor, has spent 10 years teaching witht the ASCAP Foundation Fresh Air Fund Summer Guitar Project. He has created an inclusive environment that encourages all novice guitar players to learn at their own pace. First, students learn about the different parts of a guitar and how to properly hold it. After everyone feels comfortable, they move on to playing and learning how to read music. 

“I want students to explore and have their own time with the instruments,” said Tom. “Being comfortable is the most important thing. I go from camper to camper to make sure that nobody is getting left behind.” 

Campers love being able to express themselves through music. 

Finding Your Sound

Tom starts lessons by teaching the song “Seven Nation Army,” then campers have the chance to suggest songs. The song suggestions include practically every genre of music. From Drake to Billie Eilish to “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” there is a wide array of songs to choose from. 

“We played guitar with this wonderful instructor, and he taught us how to play Cake by the Ocean! I learned the whole song in one session!,” shared Allana from Camp ABC. “I feel like an artist. I feel very creative.” 

Zeraiah comes from a musical family and can’t wait to play together! 

“I really liked learning how to play the guitar. I’m looking forward to playing “Happy Birthday” for my brothers and learning new chords,” shared Zeraiah. 

Tom hosted a guitar booth at the Camp ABC Carnival, which was completely flooded with campers who wanted some more practice time. There were more campers than available guitars, so everyone waited in line and took turns getting a few more strums in. 

“I love that everybody wanted to keep playing and took the opportunity to squeeze in some extra time. It was awesome,” shared Tom. 

ASCAP Foundation Guitar Donation

In November, ASCAP donated guitars to The Fund. Campers who fell in love with playing the guitar over the summer now have the opportunity to continue practicing throughout the year. Many students already have plans for teaching their siblings! 

Amina is excited to practice at home with her new guitar! 

“I started playing the guitar at Camp Mariah. All my friends from last year said they were going to sign up for music, and we did! Now, I have my own guitar to practice with! I can teach my sister the guitar basics,” said Amina from Camp Mariah. 

Building Skills Through Music

Musical education helps students develop a range of new skills beyond learning how to play a new instrument. Through studying the guitar, children foster creativity, self-expression and a feeling of accomplishment. 

Playing guitar outside at Camp Junior is a fun way to be in nature. 

“Music is therapeutic. I hope that the campers leave feeling accomplished. Knowing that they can accomplish playing the guitar will help them know that they can accomplish other things. I hope they feel empowered.” 

A Fresh Air thank you to our partner The ASCAP Foundation and to Tom and all our talented and dedicated guitar instructors for making the music program at camp possible!