If you’re a guitar player like me, you probably have some strings kicking around. Maybe even a lot. Maybe you have more than one guitar and you’re always buying new strings. I always tend to buy at least two packs at a time, regardless if it’s electric or acoustic. I buy two sets because I do play a lot of shows and my habit is to completely change the old strings and keep a second set incase I happen to bust a string during the show.
This always leaves me with extra strings that end up going unused as I keep buying new sets and starting the cycle over again. I’m not talking a shoe-box full of strings here. I mean, boxes and boxes and boxes. Thousands of strings collected over the last 15 years. If they stay in their paper envelopes, unused strings last forever.
I was never going to use all these strings, largely because I could never make complete sets from all the spares. I tend to break the same strings over again. I needed to figure out what to do with them. Then I started to think back to my days in junior high school. I went to Central Colchester Junior High, just outside Truro. There was this great band room that was fully stocked with close to two dozen acoustic guitars, as well as an upright piano, electric keys, bass guitar, drum kit and even some guitar amps for the kids who brought in their own electric guitars.
Let’s think about that for a second.
Those guitars would have classes full of young teenagers learning guitar for the first time. If all those oils from sweaty hands from kids that just had gym class before music didn’t wreck the strings, the wild up and down tuning attempts could always be counted on to bust some strings. How did the teacher ever stay on top of keeping strings on those guitars? Even today, on the guitars I regularly play, I’ve never had strings last me a month, let alone a full school year. But I never recall seeing massive collections of strings just waiting to be strung on the guitar. Because that would be crazy expensive! Even if on average a pack of strings cost about $10 a pack and you have 24 guitars, you’re looking at close to $500 if you put a fresh set on at the beginning of the school year and had a second set per guitar as backup.
And that’s when it hit me…
I can’t be the only guitar player in the region with a pile of unused guitar strings. I need to reach out to the local scene, collect unused strings from other players, make complete sets out of them and donate them to local school with guitars!!
Because if it wasn’t for the value of music education in schools, I know my life would be drastically different and I dare say, not for the better. Learning music taught me so much more than simply playing a melody or carrying a tune in a bucket (as they say), but it fostered life skills and prepared me for life of rich experiences. It helped to develop my social skills and my problem solving abilities. Music gave me the outlet to explore my emotions and understand the situations that influenced them. It boosted my self-esteem and gave me the confidence to try new things in life that I might have otherwise shied away from.
That’s why I started Stringathon. To help be a resource for schools and music teachers who have guitars at their school. Buying these strings is not a big deal for the typical player but for a teacher, someone who has to operate day-to-day with such rigid and inflexible budget restrictions, it can be very difficult to buy in such bulk. There’s no guarantee there will be enough in the budget to covers incidentals like strings and in some cases, there’s no certainty music teachers would be reimbursed for the cost of the strings if they bought them out of their own pocket. Stringathon helps by collecting unused strings all school year and then in the spring they get donated to outfit a school’s entire collection of guitars so they’re ready for the following school year.
Right now, Stringathon is a one-person operation but the prospects of creating something lasting and in service to the community excites me. I’d love to see Stringathon grow into something magical even I couldn’t imagine.
One guitar at a time.
Charlie A’Court – Stringathon