Six strings plus five concepts equals a new charity in downtown Clarks Summit.
Guitarganics is the brainchild of Corey Cohen, a former animal behaviorist who worked as the director of operations for the Pennsylvania branches of the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) who has had a lifelong passion for the guitar. Realizing that there is too much emphasis on showcasing one's own talents versus being a spotlight for others, Cohen came up with the Guitarganics concept and decided to "play" it forward.
"Guitarganics is a system of learning guitar," Cohen explained. "It is a holistic and organic system that combines several aspects. There's a personal and spiritual aspect, as well as a physical, knowledge, emotional and expressive aspects. It is more than just for music."
The logo for Guitarganics is a stylized tree and that is where the charity's concept branches out from just learning the guitar. Cohen is offering guitar lessons to anyone who wants them but with one requirement - his students must perform at least one act of kindness or service in the community every day.
"The whole idea of this is to give back," Cohen said. "It is not about learning a skill so you can impress people and have the spotlight always on you. It is about learning something so you can give it away and do something good with it. Learning music is extremely beneficial for anyone, as far as boosting a person's self-esteem and learning abilities. We wanted to take it a step further and we wanted it to spread out otherwise."
Guitar lessons are given by appointment at Cohen's studio, located at 604 S. State St. in Clarks Summit. Between lessons, students are offered a variety of forms of support, including phone, text, email and Skype. Donations for lessons are accepted and are voluntary; a suggested donation is $45 per hour but no one will be turned away. Students are also required to keep a diary of their kind acts and service that will be posted to Guitarganics's website which, Cohen hopes, will inspire others.
"The goal is to create a ripple effect that grows and spreads," he said. "If they feel good about it, then the recipient feels good about it and it continues on to other people. We're going to do it in this community first and then take it as far as we can go."
Cohen is now in the process of applying for 501(c)(3) non-profit status for Guitarganics. He added that his desire to get people to break through social constraints and reach out to others also applies to the classroom where he employs slightly unorthodox methods, urging his students to discover their own voice as musicians.
"One of my favorite quotes is by Robin Ford, a guitarist who plays a lot of bluesy jazz music, he said he plays guitar like finger painting," he said. "I love that imagery because it tells you to experiment, to go outside the lines and try things. Some things will work, some won't. It is only from that freedom of restrictions that you can blossom. That's part of what I try to teach. There are structural things, too, but within that structure, there's infinite freedom."
For more information about Guitarganics, to donate or to become a student, visit www.guitarganics.com or call 267-4765.