A 3-year-old could say that you dont play a guitar with your feet and that the strings stretch across the frets and not the floor. And yet early Saturday morning, a group of preschoolers, some still mastering how to walk, step on E, A and G strings in time with Ruth Cutchers guitar.
The preschoolers are stepping on strands of rope spread across the floor, representing guitar strings, as they learn the notes. With each strum, Cutcher softly guides the kids and their parents to the right string. For most of the children, this weekend workshop at the Guitar Dojo is their first introduction to learning how to play guitar.
Schoolmaster Cutcher held two separate introductory workshops Saturday, one for 3-year-olds and another for 5-year-olds.
Theyre able to acquire skills in almost an effortless sort of way because theyre in a learning mode at that age, Cutcher said.
Cutcher specializes in the Suzuki Method. A philosophy as much as a technique, the method was born from the ashes of post-World War II Japan. Shinichi Suzuki, who grew up in his fathers violin shop and befriended Albert Einstein in Germany, made a connection between a childs ability to pick up a foreign language at a young age and their ability to learn an instrument.
Suzuki was a real idealist, Cutcher said. He believed that if children could learn how to make beautiful music, they would have beautiful hearts, and we could end conflict in the world.
Cutcher, who recently relocated to the Smiley Building, said Saturdays workshop was the most successful thus far.
The workshops are designed to introduce people to the Suzuki Method and how that applies to guitar, Cutcher said.
Because theyre so young, we do a lot of experiential things musical games, learning about strings and parts of the guitar. Our options are limited because their motor skills arent quite developed, Cutcher said.
But what is a guitar workshop without guitars? Soon the strings were no longer stretched across the floor but over the frets. Not surprisingly, the kids first song was Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Though certainly not the most beautiful rendition, there was a spark of recognition, an aha! moment in the kids eyes.
Its fun. It gets my brain working for school, said Lassen Griggs, a regular student of the Guitar Dojo.
I have noticed that even kids who have been taking lessons for a short period of time are starting to slow down and pay more attention to what theyre doing, Cutcher said.
Saturdays workshop was no early morning daycare. As with all of Cutchers lessons, parental involvement was required. From learning the guitar strings with their children to helping them draw a guitar, the parents (all fathers on Saturday) were actively participating in their childrens educations.
The parents offer support and are sort of leading them through the process, Cutcher said. I have my parents come in and take a course before the kids do. It helps to keep the kids motivated.
Margaret Hedderman is a freelance writer based in Durango. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.