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Millvale Community Library offering free guitar workshops

| Monday, Feb. 5, 2018, 9:00 p.m.
Jackson Rogers, left, and Roman Benty, far right, who perform with the Indie Rock band The Zells,  teach music at Millvale Community Library every Thursday.
Photo by Susan McClellan
Jackson Rogers, left, and Roman Benty, far right, who perform with the Indie Rock band The Zells, teach music at Millvale Community Library every Thursday.

The Millvale Community Library has expanded its maker space programming to include free weekly guitar lessons.

Burgeoning young rock stars may attend Music Makers workshops from 5 to 6 p.m. Thursdays.

Students are welcome to bring their own guitars, but there are five available for use during class, courtesy of a donation from the Ross-based Brighton Music Center. Furthermore, residents may check out an Epiphone Espana guitar with their library cards.

“The guitar that is able to be checked out is really good and helpful for those that don't have a lot to spend but would love to learn to play,” said Music Makers attendee Jacob Taylor, 14. “I worked and saved up for my guitars and equipment. However, guitars can be expensive, from the cheapest being around $100 and high-end guitars going into the thousands.”

Roman Benty, Maker Program director, co-facilitates the workshops with Jackson Rogers, who participates as a volunteer. The two Shaler Area High School alumni perform together in the indie rock band The Zells.

Benty, 23, said library Executive Director Susan McClellan devised the idea for the music program when two teenagers brought their guitars into the library. Around the same time, Rogers inquired with Benty about available library space for teaching music lessons.

“It was kind of a perfect storm for good,” Benty, of Bloomfield, said.

Benty, who is a self-taught musician, primarily plays bass guitar. Rogers develops the program's guitar-based curriculum.

“He'll start by showing them a technique or whatever we're doing for the day, and I'll kind of observe and see how everybody's doing with it, and I'll try to ask him the right questions that it seems like the kids might feel uncomfortable asking or something to make sure that we all understand it on the same level,” Benty said.

The library started offering the drop-in classes Jan. 11. The students currently are working on learning chords. As each session progresses, the group practices playing simple songs using the chords they have learned.

“Basically, the idea is to give kids something tangible that they can play and walk away with so that they stay enthused.”

Additionally, the instructors compile music journals with the material for the students to reference when practicing.

“Part of the idea is to teach them that while music is hard work, it isn't as mystifying as one might think just from hearing songs on the radio,” Benty said. “When you really break it down, it still comes down to chord structures and basic songs that were used since pop structures and rock music came about and even before that.”

The current curriculum is primarily geared toward beginners. Students needn't reside in Millvale.

“I participate in the music program because I love music — I would not be the same without it,” Jacob said. “Some of the things we do in the program is the guitar lessons. I help out a little bit with the lessons, like give tips and tricks, and they teach me a little more advanced stuff. There is also a lot of other stuff we do. I hope to pretty much learn anything.”

Benty is working on a grant to obtain musical equipment to expand the program beyond guitars.

“For Jackson and I, making music has been something that we've found great value and great purpose in, and we think it's a lifelong thing that can just bring people joy. And, the more people that can experience that and be exposed to that, despite what external limitations exist in the world, is a pretty awesome thing.”

For details, call the library at 412-822-7081.

Erica Cebzanov is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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