Vets strum away stress with jam sessions
Fridays are all about the music for Veterans Services Interim Director David Small.
For seven weeks, he has hosted and led an entry level to intermediate guitar training curriculum from 2 to 3 and 3 to 4 p.m. Fridays at the Veterans Services office in UC North.
Small’s brand of “Guitars For Vets” is similar to a national program that delivered “music therapy” to veterans in about 35 cities. However, UH’s program is purely for the music and does not include any psychological therapy.
“It’s not music therapy, but we do recognize that music is therapeutic,” Small said. “We’re doing it from a recreational standpoint, and so far the feedback has been great.”
The course is held to increase camaraderie among UH’s vast student-veteran population. Small wants to bring as many veterans as he can together with the goal of learning guitar and increasing their awareness of the soothing and entertaining nature of music. It is about leaving anything that they experienced in the military or in the prior week behind when they pick up the guitar and start strumming.
Although the course has existed for only two months Small is impressed by their dedication.
“We have since purchased four guitars for the course,” Small said. “Some veterans bring their own guitars, and some have purchased one since the lessons started. So there is a swell of interest and a lot of fun.”
Music has a relaxing effect, he said, and the better you get at it and the more real songs you begin to play, the more it gives you a sense of accomplishment.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said nutrition junior Natalie Avina. “Since I’ve been coming, I can see a bond has grown between the veterans that have been coming. It’s great, because there’s no Army or Marine stuff; it’s just about the music, something that you can take with you forever.”
History freshman Sterling Dodd said he attends every week in appreciation of how well the course is taught.
“Dr. Small is an amazing teacher,” Dodd said. “He’s going to teach you songs to be a rock star. He doesn’t pitter-patter around, and I look forward to coming every week because of that.”
The program is in its seventh week, and as the course progresses, Small has hopes of expansion and progression from his students. It allows them to lay everything to the side, pick up a guitar and just jam.
“It gets veterans’ minds off the pressures of academics and the anxieties they might have brought with them after combat,” Small said. “So we’re looking to relieve some of that pressure and stress, and so far, the feedback has been consistent with that.”