BELDING — With a few plucks of some strings and and a lot of time and effort, students at Belding Middle School are picking up a musical skill that many of them hope can lead to greater things.
On Wednesday afternoon, evidence of “greater things” arrived in the form of a one-hour clinic by professional guitarist Joel Mabus, who wowed more than 50 seventh-graders who have either taken or are currently enrolled in guitar class at the school.
Mabus, of Kalamazoo, began playing around the same age as the students and plays a variety of folk and country music with 18 albums to his credit. He performed a number of short pieces Wednesday, featuring off several components of guitar playing that peaked the curiosity of many of the students.
“I really enjoyed the class and the show today,” said seventh-grader Corinne Ross, 12. “The message that you don’t need everything about you to be perfect to play, you just have to want to do it.”
Mabus revealed several techniques of playing that he said are crucial for young guitar players to begin practicing on a daily basis.
“I’ll demonstrate a few of the things that I think are important early on, such as how chords go together and a few early styles that are easy for beginning guitar players to grasp such as blues and country music,” he said.
Mabus said although he is a guitar player by profession, he equally enjoys teaching and expanding the minds of young students.
“Playing the guitar is my career, it’s what I do, and teaching is a part of that,” he said. “There are no real parameters to this event today, other than I am visiting beginning guitar players as a person who has played all my life.”
Belding Middle School band director and guitar class instructor George Rousseau helped bring Mabus to the school to help inspire his students and show that playing guitar can take you anyplace you can imagine.
“Sometimes students get discouraged when they try to play something and they can’t,” Rousseau said. “Sometimes they don’t see why we do the things they class, and then they see Mr. Mabus perform and know that the work will pay off.”
Rousseau said he believes the skills that his students learn while playing guitar help them in ways that can’t be measured in a classroom setting.
“To have an outlet after a bad day or good day, is always nice,” he said. “I see 160 kids in band everyday, but if a kid doesn’t take band, what do they have? This class offers them a place to be expressive. There’s a lot of kids that just need that something different.”
Seventh-grader Cooper Hewitt, 12, who has been playing the guitar for several years, said he was especially impressed by Mabus.
“That would be really fun, especially to have the fun and enjoyment of being able to teach people like he does,” he said. “I really enjoyed the folk music, most of my family enjoys old music like that.”
On Wednesday evening, a select group of students known as the “All Stars” from Rousseau’s classes put on a performance in the middle school, followed by a solo show by Mabus. Proceeds from the concert went to help fund Rousseau’s guitar classes, which now has as many as 25 guitars for students to use in the 50-minute class.
Seventh-grader Erin Rich, 12, said the event was an incredible opportunity to share the stage with Mabus.
“We’re just going to play and hope people enjoy it,” she said. “We’re excited for the performance tonight. Mr. Mabus was able to strum so quickly, I don’t think any of us, or anyone, could do what he does.”
Mabus left students with a lasting message, letting them know that there are no obstacles too great that can prevent them from doing what they truly put their mind to.
“It doesn’t take a full set of fingers, it doesn’t take all of your facilities to play music, it just takes your brain,” he said. “If you have a problem you can overcome it with the way you use what you got.”