By Peter Jasinski
Sentinel & Enterprise
December 10, 2015
From left, Rebecca Silva, Zia Thompson and Josh Melendy look on as volunteer Caoilin O’Connor shows them how to build wooden guitars Wednesday at the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE PHOTOS / Ashley Green
LEOMINSTER — Legendary musician and guitar builder Les Paul once said, “I need to take a piece of wood and make it sound like the railroad track, but I also had to make it sound beautiful and lovable so that a person playing it would think of it in terms of his mistress, a bartender, his wife, a good psychiatrist — whatever.”
Paul never said anything about a guitar being a teacher, but that’s the case at the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster.
For the past two weeks, 15 children have been participating in the club’s first guitar-building program.
“They’ve been really receptive,” said Caoilin O’Connor, the program’s volunteer guitar guru. “Part of me wasn’t sure how interested they’d be, but I think they’ve really liked it.
(Left: Jonathan Arel builds a wooden guitar.)
The program is part of the club’s fall art workshop series run by local artists.
Programs for painting, sculpting, as well as guitar making have been held since late October, culminating in an art show planned for today.
In addition to being an exercise in artistic creativity, volunteer coordinator Becky Cyganiewicz said the guitar-building program also spans the club’s science, technology, engineering, and math curriculum.
“Since we are a STEM focused club, it ties in very well in many ways,” she said.
Two guitars have been built in the program so far — a Fender Telecaster and a Gibson Les Paul.
“It’s a classic rock n’ roll machine,” O’Connor said of the Les Paul.
“It’s a pretty diverse instrument, you’ll be able to get a lot of different sounds out of it.”Though the two guitars being built at the Boys & Girls Club were from kits that had been ordered online, O’Connor said he originally started building guitars from scrap wood he was able to find in his yard.
For his students, O’Connor said he broke up the building process into individual steps that all kids could be involved in at the same time.
“They’ve all been really fast learners. I can show them how to do one thing and they just take off from there,” he said.
“I’m not much of a guitarist, I’m more of a drummer myself, but I always wondered how they actually work,” said 16-year-old Leo Gonzalez. “Now that I know how the insides work, it’s that much more interesting.”
Following today’s art show, the two guitars will be used by students at the Boys & Girls Club hoping to learn how to play.
“We would like to expand our music program, and maybe even have a band here some day,” said Cyganiewicz, “My hope is that we might inspire more kids to learn to play.”