“Suzy Bogguss and I knew each other when we were teens,” says Jessica Baron. “I was a music teacher who gigged a little bit. Suzy was already an early celebrity. She would come through Chicago in her tour bus.… We got to be friends,” she says, “because we were peripherally part of the same music scene. Then, we lost touch for a long time.”
Jessica Baron is founder and executive director of a national outreach called Guitars in the Classroom that is headquartered in Solana Beach. Suzy Bogguss’s country albums reached platinum and gold sales in the ’80s and ’90s; to date, she has had six top-ten singles.
Baron says that when she learned her old friend would be performing at Anthology, she reached out. “I said the people who own that club [Marsha and Howard Berkson] support Guitars in the Classroom. And Suzy said, ‘Well, let’s do something. I don’t know what, but let’s put something in the evening.’ ”
To date, Anthology has donated five pairs of tickets to Bogguss’s February 18 concert with profits to benefit GITC, and a Martin guitar donated by a GITC supporter will be raffled as part of the event.
Guitars in the Classroom has been active for more than a decade. Their website states that they have trained 9000 teachers in 29 states. Unlike other charitable music programs, GITC puts instruments in the hands of teachers.
“We’re a train-the-trainer model,” says Baron. “We train the educators. We loan the teachers the guitar, and when they feel secure on the instrument, they give it back and we pass the guitar along to the next teacher.”
She says that there are currently 100 local teachers enrolled in the program, which is evenly divided between Crown Point Elementary and Oak Park Elementary schools.
Baron says that if an instructor wants to continue on as a classroom troubadour after the loaner guitar has been returned, he or she must purchase their own.
“Then, you become a customer of the music-products business, which is how we get funded by NAMM.” Baron says that NAMM, a trade association for music-product companies, has given them grant money for five years. “When a teacher does purchase a guitar, there is a good chance that they will become a customer of a NAMM member business.
“I started the program as an experiment. It’s just grown from there,” says Baron.