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Sunday, November 18, 2018

Alumni

UH alumnus gives back to student veterans with guitar lessons


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UH alumnus Jeff Chambers meets with psychology junior Saira Ramirez during their guitar session. | Sara Samora/The Cougar

UH alumnus and Army veteran Jeff Chambers is offering help to veterans in a way that may seem strange at first glance — he’s giving them guitar lessons.

“I invited Jeff over to the Veterans Service Office to talk about my desire to get our guitar group going again after it fizzled out. We had the guitars and materials; we just didn’t have a leader,” said VSO Director Celina Dugas. “I feel very lucky to have him give his time to help our student veterans.”

Chambers has been volunteering his services through therapeutic guitar lessons for the Veterans’ Association since 2012. When he heard from an acquaintance that a similar program run through the Veterans Service Office had lost its instructor, he offered to keep the program alive.

“These youngsters didn’t have to serve,” said Chambers. “If a few of them would like to learn to play, or just have a group to play with, then sharing what I know and providing a venue for learning and playing is the least I can do.”

Chambers graduated with a bachelor’s from UH before serving in the United States Army from 1969 to 1971. After getting out, he returned to UH to receive a graduate degree in counseling. Though he never went into a counseling career, he has been a dedicated teacher and facilitator in his lessons with the Veterans Association, and the same passion has carried over to the UH Veteran Services Office.

“There’s not a day I don’t want to meet with Jeff to play guitar,” said Johnny Isaacs, an Army vet. “You can tell just how much he enjoys playing the guitar and wants to make a difference in our lives.”

When he returned from service, Chambers took to playing the guitar simply because it had been a hobby of his, but found camaraderie among other veterans who also enjoyed playing. Though the idea of using music for therapy is a relatively recent idea, Chambers and his groups could feel the effect in their lessons. The advent of music therapy led to the creation of classes like Chambers’ across the country over the last decade.

“Veteran medical care has changed a lot since I got my degree. I studied trauma studies when it was in its infancy, and post-traumatic stress disorder wasn’t even a condition that could be diagnosed then,” said Chambers. “Now the experts are looking into how to medically apply something we’ve been doing for fun this whole time. It’s great to see.”

The guitar group meets at 2 p.m. on Fridays in the Student Center North Impact Room, and Chambers is currently looking for someone, preferably a UH professor, to take over the program from him in time.

“The sessions don’t feel like work at all; we’re just hanging around and enjoying each other’s company most of the time,” said Chambers. “But my immediate goal is to enlist competent professionals to carry on the program. Probably someone who’s not old enough to be their grandparent.”

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