By Pixie Sulser
Sergio Estrada, teacher at Olive Peirce Middle School by day, guitar instructor by afternoon, and professional musician by night, is always searching for ways to bring hands-on experiences to his students, whether it is in the Olive Peirce Today video studio or his after-school music classes.
His three worlds came together recently, forming a partnership between Estrada and Taylor Guitars of El Cajon.
It all started with a conversation between Estrada and Scooter from Taylor Guitars during a weekend gig with Estrada’s band, Monsters of Rock (MOR). Scooter, a big fan of MOR, was asking the band members about their day jobs. When he learned Estrada was a middle school teacher, he told him about Taylor Guitar’s Educational Foundation, which donates guitars to area schools.
Estrada went right to work with his OPMS video production class, creating a video highlighting his after-school music class known as Jam Sessions. Not long after sending the production to Chalise Zolezzi, communications manager at Taylor Guitars, Estrada found himself picking up five new Solidbody electric guitars that retail for approximately $1,900 each.
Since 2000 Taylor Guitars has worked with the San Diego Music Foundation supplying school music programs with electric and acoustic guitars.
“Nearly 100 schools and approximately 30,000 school-aged children have benefited from donations of over 2,300 guitars,” said Zolezzi.
In the beginning the donations focused solely on acoustic guitars, but in 2011, the program expanded to include the donation of electric guitars.
In addition to the Taylor Guitars for Schools program, the company offers school tours of the factory in El Cajon, allowing students to see how “raw pieces of wood are transformed into guitars,” said Zolezzi.
Estrada said he is excited about what this donation offers the Jam Session students.
“This year we have a lot of students who are interested in playing guitar, but several of them don’t have instruments,” he said. “Now they have something to learn on.”
Jam Sessions includes students of all ability levels.
“Some kids just come because they want a place to jam with other musicians,” said Estrada, “and some are beginners and want to watch others play. That’s how I learned as a kid. I would watch people play and then practice what I saw.”
For the more advanced musicians, Estrada provides motivation and techniques to increase their skills, and for the beginners he demonstrates chords and helps them explore their budding interest.
“There are several students who started here in Jam Sessions who are going on to study music at the college level,” said Estrada.
In fact, on the day of the
interview with Estrada, three of his former OPMS Jam Session students — Jory Oberlies, Gunner Turner, and Ricardo Alva — were in the Olive Peirce Today video studio talking with Estrada and what else — jamming.
All three former Jam Session attendees plan to continue their musical education after high school and are striving for careers in the music industry.
Oberlies, a Ramona High School senior, is off to Long Beach University in the fall. He plans to study music in some form and explore opportunities in the Los Angeles music scene. He plays in a local band, 50 Cal, and attributes his continued interest in music to Estrada’s after-school Jam Sessions.
“Having a place to learn and to play helped me to persevere and stick with the drums through the early learning stages,” he said.
Fellow RHS senior and 50 Cal band mate Turner also started his guitar training in Estrada’s Jam Sessions.
“It was a good starting point,” said Turner, who will continue his studies at the Musician’s Institute in Hollywood. “I learned something new every time I went, and Mr. Estrada was really encouraging. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t be where I am musically if I hadn’t gone to Jam Sessions when I was in middle school.”