Music takes many forms, but at Peter Skene Ogden Secondary School (PSO), the sound of guitar undisputedly dominates.
Doug Steven has been running the school’s successful guitar program since 2006, when he was hired to teach band and guitar classes for just one semester. That year saw 40 students enrolled in guitar, but since then, the program has exploded to include 120 students at PSO and another 50 at 100 Mile Junior Secondary.
“I’ve heard it said that people who were serious about music did band, and kids who were interested in goofing around did guitar. Now, people realize that if you learn how to play guitar, there is more potential for you to do something with it later on. “I want kids to learn and enjoy music, and have it for the rest of their life.”
Steven knows that some of his former students have pursued music at different levels after secondary school graduation. Many keep their connection with PSO, and Steven says that it’s quite common for former students to stop by the school and join in on a guitar class when they are home from university for a couple of days.
On Feb. 11, Steven had about 10 former students return to 100 Mile House for a guitar class reunion concert that he helped to host at the school. It was the idea of 2008 PSO grad Stephanie Marinus who, while on such a visit to the school, was impressed by how successful the guitar program continued to be.
She still plays guitar, writes songs and is pursuing a career in concert promotion. Much of who she is, she attributes to the guitar program.
“Doug gave us a chance to learn in a different way than other teachers do. He gets your attention first, and then sneaks in the theory. He finds out what your favourite music is and teaches you a song in a couple of days, hands-on, and not by the book.”
Singing is a huge part of Steven’s program and the focus is on everyone working as a group.
“I want them to learn that it’s not all about them existing in a vacuum. They have to co-operate with other people for their music to work. I love doing this. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had.”