My guitar troupe at Fatima College

by Cesco Emmanuel

I’ve been teaching guitar at my former high-school – ‘Fatima College’ for the past four years now. It’s strange to be back ‘in school’, revisiting my old classrooms, I get these flashbacks at times and it sure is weird remembering my time in school. Hard to believe that was over 20 years ago.

The place more or less looks the same. The only thing that has changed are some of the teachers (naturally). Every term, I teach about 15 boys how to play the guitar. Some kids have been with me since I started there four years ago, others have moved onto other activities. It’s hard for a kid to hold his attention that long on anything these days. Everything is so instant.

Sadly, a few drop out after a term or two, deciding rather hastily that guitar is hard and they can’t master it as quickly as they thought they would. Little do they know that it takes a lifetime to get anything worthwhile right, at least to the stage where you – the person can say – ‘Yes!, I’m happy with where I am right now.’

Just getting to that point can take decades. Some never even get to that point.

Now, every year at the school’s annual Christmas concert, my guitar troupe is the second performance in the program. So I train these guys to play a song for three nights at the end of November. It’s amazing to see how some guys who’ve never played guitar before will not only learn how to play guitar, but will also learn a song in less than ten weeks and perform it in front of the entire school and parents. And yet some struggle with how to strum one chord, much less a song.

And stranger still, I have some ‘advanced’ students who refuse to play in the show, for what reason I have no idea, in my opinion any live experience is good experience. I remember my first performance with a guitar – it was 1988 and we played Joan Jett’s ‘I hate myself for loving you’ at St. Mary’s school concert. Man! was I nervous? But I’m glad I play that first show. Imagine if I hadn’t?

One question always bothers me. Why do some kids excel at guitar and others fail miserably? Is it talent? Or is it a matter of a positive attitude and the willingness and drive to improve and succeed?

I personally think it’s the latter.

But I’m always honoured at these kids who give it their best shot and so far, every time it’s worked out in their favour. And as their guitar teacher, I really can’t ask for more.