By Heidi Zemach for SCN
At lunch time Tuesday afternoon Seward Elementary School’s guitar club members rehearsed two folk tunes they’ve been working hard to perfect. They will perform Woody Guthrie’s famous anthem, “This Land is Your Land,” and Bob Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind” before a large gathering of their peers at school Friday afternoon. The guitar club will be the opening act for guest artist Rick Brooks, an accomplished Anchorage fingerstyle guitarist with a background in British folk and American blues.
The students have been learning simple guitar tunes since Thanksgiving under the guidance of local songster Jim Pfeiffenberger and teacher Terri McKnight. The assembly wraps up this year’s guitar program, a small but pleasant extracurricular edition to the music offerings at the school.
The five boys who showed up for practice Tuesday strummed together in a tight ensemble as they sang, playing on the straight beats the first time through, then on the offbeat or chuck of the “boom chuck,” which sounds even cooler.
“Guitar’s awesome,” said Brendan Alan McMurray. “We practice once a week, and we learn… and you can impress your family members.” “I like guitar because you get to perform for others, you get to play songs, and it’s fun when you play songs,” said Sam Koster.
Pfeiffenberger had some trouble getting the boys to sing out, as they were shy, and more focused on their guitar playing. But the adrenaline may kick in at show time, and if they don’t sing louder, their young audience may well join in and help out, especially if their leaders decide to project the words on an overhead screen.
“Remember, the girls will be watching,” warned Pfeiffenberger, eliciting shy smiles, and at least one boy to suggest that they should exchange their acoustic guitars for electric ones.
Two of Pfeiffenberger’s sons are in the guitar club. The club has had as many as 13 or 14 participants over the course of the five-months, he said, but interest has waned as other activities beckon, leaving this core group of around five or six who chose to stay with it. Jim likes to bring guest performers into the school to inspire the students generally, and to show them where they could go with their instrument if they stick with it.
Pfeiffenberger, who works for the National Park Service, performs in a long-standing group called “Good Dog” that he co-founded more than a dozen years ago with vocalist Liesl Davenport-Wheeler. They performed at the 2012 Seward Arts and Music Festival, and often take their act elsewhere around the state.
Brooks will perform a public concert at the Resurrect Art Coffeehouse on Friday, April 12 at 7 pm, an event sponsored by the Seward Arts Council. Brooks is an accomplished fingerstyle guitarist with a background in British folk and American blues. He performs and teaches in Anchorage and is a perennial instructor at the Acoustic Alaska Guitar Camp.