The Coast News Group
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Guitars in the Classroom engages special-ed students


CARLSBAD — For many, music is a necessity in the classroom.

It develops creativity, freethinking and skills translatable into other subjects.

For Guitars in the Classroom, a San Diego nonprofit, there is a shortage of programs and instruments for special education students. So, the organization is hosting a sold-out three-day conference at the Museum of Making Music from July 20 to July 22 to develop strategies with teachers to engage special education students.

“Most of them haven’t had a chance to sing, or learn songs or play an instrument before,” Jessica Baron, founder and executive director of Guitars in the Classroom, said of special education teachers. “Furthermore, they are trying very hard to address a wide range of needs for their students.”

The conference engages in discussion on the physical, mental and verbal limitations for special education students, she added. Also, the Music Therapy Center will offer a presentation.

Baron said music must be accessible to all students no matter their backgrounds, but said the conference will instruct teachers how to engage students with different needs. Paras, who are teaching assistants for students with more moderate to severe conditions, will also be in attendance to learn new approaches and methods.

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Should the conference go well, Baron said, she hopes to offer another year. It would follow up on strategies and methods, analyzing the outcomes of the program.

“Music needs to be accessible for students that might have a hard time if it were taught the regular way,” Baron added.

Guitars in the Classroom was founded in 1998 and has been a driver to encourage music in the classroom. The nonprofit is dedicated to creating access to musical learning for all students and improving the quality of education by providing ongoing musical training and resources to educators.

The program trains, provides supplies and coaches teachers who wish to lead and integrate hands-on music with lessons in English language arts, math, science, social studies and more.

Baron said she likes to see how Guitars in the Classroom helps teachers “make learning exciting and sticky. So the kids really remember and dig into what they are learning.”

Baron and Julia Cole, a kindergarten teacher at Murray Manor Elementary School in La Mesa, said the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation, which houses the Museum of Making Music, also provides grants, support for musical opportunities, supplies, sheet music, instruments and much more.

In addition, the foundation provides training for nonprofits to deliver better instruction. Guitars in the Classroom, meanwhile, was awarded its 12th grant through the foundation, which benefits all students it serves.

Cole took a three-day course from Guitars in the Classroom and implemented the curriculum over the past school year. Although she doesn’t teach special education, her students had an overwhelming reaction to the lessons.

“It showed that if I could learn the ukulele and guitar, my students could, too,” Cole said. “I got a ton of instruments. We began learning how to learn the instruments. In January, we started writing our own songs.”

For more about Guitars in the Classroom, visit or for teachers at