Their mission is straightforward: provide guitars and lessons to foster children, at risk youth and other deserving children in a classroom setting with qualified teachers. The results to date are far reaching: Guitars not Guns has now helped over 4000 children and teens.
Founders Ray and Louise Nelson knew from raising foster children themselves that playing a musical instrument could help teens and children with their confidence and self-esteem, as well as laying the foundation for richer and more positive lives. They started small, gathering unused instruments for foster children from friends in their San Jose area, obtained tax-exempt status, and conducted the first classes with two volunteer teachers. Not satisfied with materials available, they created GnG’s own curriculum and lessons.
An activity doing this much good would not remain local; they now operate in twelve states, while headquarters has shifted from San Jose to the Atlanta, Georgia area. Ray designed and built a car and a motorcycle, each styled in the image of a guitar, which he drives at events publicizing and promoting Guitars not Guns. While he is rightly recognized for his efforts in creating and growing this organization, Ray is quick to credit Gibson Guitars and other sponsors who generously support the cause.
Guitars not Guns seeks volunteers for important roles: starting new state affiliates or county chapters, teachers, assistant teachers, program coordinators, fundraising, and other functions. Although a $100 donation will equip a new student, donations in any amount are appreciated. No students are turned away due to financial hardship.