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Stringing ’em along

Wren Wertin

Some final exams require students to break out mathematical equations. Others demand a guitar. Dave Laub’s guitar class, an elective course at Battle Mountain High School, will be performing at Starbucks in Avon Thursday morning as part of their final exam. The first set begins at 8 a.m., the second set at 9:30 a.m.

“The guitar is an amazing instrument,” said Brendan Scott, 19. “There’s so much you can do with it, so many different sounds.”

Laub’s guitar class is open to all levels, from the music novice to the well practiced musician. Some kids are able to read music before they begin, while others learn in class.

“You have to be really coordinated,” said Jesse Hanson, a sophomore. “Both of your hands have to play separately, and then you have to read music at the same time.”

Though Battle Mountain has offered guitar classes for years, not too many schools offer it.

“It’s not a common class to find,” said Laub. “It can be challenging to keep a whole class together, especially now that you’ve got bigger class sizes with budget cuts. For them, it’s an elective opportunity, but it’s got a lot of competition with other classes.”

Still, he’s got enough students for two classes. Some students are drawn to it because it’s unusual.

“We thought it would be different,” said Kelsey Abbott, 15.

“But we’re definitely musically challenged,” added her friend, Ashley MacDonald, 16.

The twosome find music class hard in ways they never imagined.

Some kids come equipped with their own guitars; others borrow from the school’s stock.

Paul Agneberg, 18, decided to take the class because his father gave him a guitar for Christmas. He prefers to play rock songs.

“Some of my friends play, and I wanted to learn,” he said.

Are guitar players cooler than other musicians?

“Yeah,” he said, drawing out the syllable. “They’re cooler.”

Samantha Russell, 16, is a first-year guitar player, too.

“I just got re-motivated,” she said, her fingers paused over her strings. “I just learn whatever I can.”

Students were allowed to pick the songs they’ll perform. They’re required to play a minimum of two; some have chosen more than that. Rock, folk, classical – the song list is diverse in genre.

Students are also encouraged to be self-starters. Once he teaches them the raw skills, Laub lets his classes move at their own pace.

“You definitely have to be self-motivated,” said Becky Green, 18.

She and Scott will be performing “Sweet Home Alabama” for one of their songs. Other songs folks will hear at Starbucks include “Every Breath You Take,” “Hotel California” and “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” Some of the musicians will be singing, too.

“Some of the students are actually in choir,” said Laub. “And there are a couple kids who don’t have formal voice singing but feel comfortable singing in public. That’s definitely a common thing you find with acoustic guitar players.

Laub didn’t start out a guitar player – he went for the saxophone. But in college he took a class that’s held him in good stead.

“When you learn music at a young age,” he explained, “it becomes more like a language, and you don’t have to think so hard about understanding it.”

He’s hoping his students will become bilingual.

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at wrenw@vaildaily.com or phone at 949-0555, ext. 618.


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