L.A. musician gives unexpected lesson at Ford City school
A professional musician visited a Ford City classroom to give students a lesson during the day before a show he was to play Thursday night in Pittsburgh.
Ryan Ayers, a classically trained guitarist and touring musician from Los Angeles, shared picking techniques and stories about the guitar with students in the class that was recently added at the school.
Ayers has been playing shows in East Coast cities for several weeks. He contacted music teacher Jason Venesky after reading about the new “Introduction to Guitar” class on Triblive.com while researching the Pittsburgh area on the Internet before his visit.
“I got really excited when I saw the school offered a class like this, since it is really a great way to learn some classic styles and techniques,” Ayers said. “Guitar was just something I picked up mostly on my own, so it’s such a great advantage for these kids to be able to pick up and learn the instrument in school with a teacher.”
Venesky said he was glad to host Ayers.
“This is a way to inspire them. Ryan really started playing at the same age of the students in this class,” Venesky said. “This serves as a good example of what professional guitar players do and how the students can get there.”
Ayers began learning guitar when he was 13 and earned a degree in classical guitar performance and recording from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
He tours the country playing soft, instrumental acoustic songs he composed on his guitar. The performance Thursday was at Acoustic Music Works in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood.
The school started the guitar class this year, using a $5,000 grant from the Armstrong School District Foundation to buy Yamaha steel-stringed acoustic guitars. The class is offered for junior high students in Ford City.
Next year, plans are to offer the class to all students at Armstrong Junior-Senior High School. The class is expected to be offered at West Shamokin High School, said Venesky, chairman of the district music department.
Eighth-grader Kalob Toy, who had not played guitar before taking the class, said he really enjoyed learning from Ayers. “It’s really nice to see someone who started learning the guitar around the same time I’m starting and to see how far it’s taken him,” Toy said. “It really inspires me to keep trying to learn the guitar and get better.”
Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or [email protected]