ST. LOUIS • Larry Burnett, a second-grader, watched intently as his music teacher began distributing the guitars, stored in a second-floor closet at Adams Elementary School. This is the part of Larry’s day that he enjoys most — the two hours after school three times a week when he has his left foot on a foot stand, a guitar on his knee and his fingers on the strings. And now it’s time. Larry held the guitar and plucked a tune. His favorite song, he said, is “Saw Dodge Blues.” Music teacher Larissa Young stood at the front of the room, signaling the start of group practice.
“I like to perform,” Larry said. “It makes me smile.” For two years, students at this elementary school in the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood have been learning classical guitar in an after-school club that’s part of a growing trend. Guitar instruction is flourishing in more than a dozen schools in the St. Louis, Jennings, Ferguson-Florissant and Normandy districts — in schools that are predominantly high-poverty and African-American.
Numerous studies point to the benefits of music training for young children. It helps build fine-motor skills and physically develops the side of the brain that processes language. It helps improve attention span, bolsters the ability to manage anxiety and improves emotional control.
“It’s taught them discipline,” Young said.