Mentor Institute 2019

Mentor Institute 2019

Our mentors are the backbone of Guitars Over Guns. These guys give their time, talent, and hearts every single day to uplift and inspire youth through the power of music education. So when our entire mentor crew convened at Camillus House this week for our 2019 Mentor Training Institute – some coming all the way from Chicago, some repping their home turf right here in Miami – it was so much more than just a workshop among colleagues. It was a reunion of friends and family with so much passion and talent to share.  Our team took part in a series of lectures, team-building games, and hands-on training exercises to get them ready to serve 800+ youth this coming academic year. We learned about supporting students through challenging times, supporting one another in the work that we do, and how to build a learning environment that is engaging, inclusive, and welcoming. The activities culminated with the highly anticipated presentation of our annual “Mentor of the Year” Awards, presented to our incredible team members Pinqy Ring (Chicago) and Sierra Shaw (Miami). Congratulations! Finally, on Wednesday, August 7th, we gathered at Wynwood’s Veza Sur Brewing Co. for a happy hour gathering filled with lots of love and laughs, as our Chicago and Miami families celebrated their accomplishments this week and prepared to say farewell until next year. We’re so proud of this amazing crew and can’t wait for an exciting school year dedicated to empowering youth through...
Class of 2019

Class of 2019

On June 5th, our Miami fam gathered at Jose De Diego Middle School for a graduation ceremony like no other. We heard epic live performances from our mentors and newest alumni, and felt inspired by keynote remarks from the one and only Valencia Gunder, founder of Make the Homeless Smile. CEO Chad Bernstein and COO Jono De Leon expressed their pride and encouragement to our graduating glass, and we were thrilled to watch the world premiere of our latest music video, “Express Yourself,” the culmination of our students’ talent and hard work! Special thanks goes out to Dr. April Thompson-Williams and the Jose De Diego family for hosting the ceremony, and to VOUS Church for generously providing the volunteers and AV equipment that made the event extra special for all involved. We’re so incredibly proud of this creative, talented, hardworking, compassionate crew, and can’t wait to see what they accomplish next. Congratulations, Class of 2019! Check out scenes from this special evening below, captured by Isaac Rodriguez of Entertainment Images.   loading ...1 2...
Shining Stars

Shining Stars

Have you ever shared your special talent with others? How about on a giant, pineapple-shaped stage alongside your mentors, family and friends? On Tuesday, April 30th, our Miami crew took over Ball & Chain for another successful Spring Showcase, and – dare we say it? – this one just might have been the most rockin’ showcase yet. Students from over a dozen of our school and community sites all over Miami-Dade County came together to share the spotlight and show off how far they’ve come over this past year of hard work, teamwork and music-making! We heard original songs and pop covers with our kids’ own unique creative spin. We watched dance performances that made us tap our toes and jump for joy. We witnessed our students – for many, their first time performing publicly – demonstrate their talent, dedication and exuberance in front of an audience radiating so much support and love. Performing in public is one of the hardest things a musician can do, yet these kids stepped into the spotlight with confidence and charisma to rival even the most seasoned rockstars. They’ve practiced hard and grown a lot over the year, not only as musicians, but as young leaders in their classrooms and in their communities. On Tuesday night, they showed us what it means to #ChooseYourSound. Yeah – we’re pretty proud. We had so much fun, and already can’t wait to jam at next year’s Spring Showcase! Thank you so much to Ball & Chain for hosting us, and for supporting our mission – and thank you to everyone who came out to show some...
Everyone has a story

Everyone has a story

by board member & Miami mentor Junior Pierre It all started in the very four walls of Mr. De Leon’s classroom at North Miami Middle. At that moment I grew a huge interest in playing guitar. Jono realized that and invited me to join Guitars Over Guns. After one session, I fell in love with the program, and that was the initial start of my musical journey. I did have to leave the school after that year because of my behavior but still kept connected through social media. Entering high school is when I decided to go back and check it out, because I kept seeing so many good things happening on Facebook and definitely wanted to be a part of it. Jono invited me to be a peer mentor and teach guitar to the younger students. That experience literally shifted my perspective. It allowed me to realize so many things about myself and how important mentorship really is. I had moments that made me realize, “Wow, that was really me sitting in these exact chairs.” Working with the kids, I grew my capacity as a leader and my ability to understand that everyone has a story that deserves to be listened to. Although I had become a peer mentor and continued using my abilities to teach the kids, I knew that wasn’t it with my involvement in the program. So I had a conversation with my fellow alum and peer mentor Rody about starting a Guitars Over Guns alumni band, and he was completely down for it! So I reached out to a couple friends and got the...
Something New

Something New

by Miami mentor Natalie Cole The Choose Your Sound program is a new collaboration between Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Irie Foundation, and Guitars Over Guns run by a new mentor in a new format. Going into this program, all I could think about was how everything could go wrong with something so new. I’m a board-certified music therapist and I’ve been in the profession for almost five years, but I’ve been comfortable working with adults within a controlled hospital setting. Working with a community program has been my dream for so long, though, so I couldn’t throw away my shot.  We meet every Monday and Wednesday evening at a gorgeous new Big Brothers Big Sisters building. The group is made up of middle and high school students; all the boys are in 7th grade, and all the girls are in high school. As a board-certified music therapist, I hope to provide an additional means of support for the students in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. I teach some guitar, adapting techniques to their learning styles, and we talk about life and school during the process. As a music therapist, I’ve learned how to watch for cues indicating how someone is feeling, how they learn best, and why they saying what they are saying. It’s also been helpful in situations when the students bring up difficulties at home, school, or with diagnoses.  But the main thing that has me excited about this group is working with the students. They are motivated to learn and quick to catch on. Within our five sessions we’ve had so far, they’ve learned...