Cope Middle Schoolers put Burton donation to good use

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Michael Salinas, 6th grader at Cope Middle School, practices on one of the guitars donated to the school by rock legend James Burton.

Students at Cope Middle School are learning the basics of rock ‘n’ roll with a little help from a local guitar legend.

Burton, who is best known for playing guitar for Elvis Presley, personally delivered 35 acoustic guitars to Cope’s Rock 101 club on behalf of his foundation. Even better than his generous gift was Burton’s personal promise to return to the school later this year for a jam session.

Rock 101 was created by club sponsors and Cope teachers Eric Lee, Kevin Smith and Chad Patterson. Their goal is to get children interested in music, to teach the history behind it and develop a better appreciation for it.

Prior to Burton’s donation, Kevin Smith said the group would watch videos, listen to CDs and a few students would bring electric guitars from home to demonstrate. Although it was fun at the time, Smith said it was difficult for all students in the club to learn hands-on.

So, the group began writing letters to the James Burton Foundation, whose purpose is to support “music education for those in need through guitar donations and music instruction to schools, hospitals, and community service organizations.”

“It’s amazing what one guitar can do for a child,” Burton told the crowd during the guitar presentation.

Now with guitars in hand, there are high hopes for the students of Rock 101. Smith added that they are encouraging students to create their own musical scores.

“For some of them, this is their first time holding a guitar. We will teach them how to care for it, basic chords and hopefully branch them into all areas of music,” Smith said. “We just want them to develop a love and appreciation for music.”

The James Burton Foundation has given thousands of guitars to schools, and children’s and veteran’s hospitals, and will continue this effort. This is the first time a Bossier school has been gifted guitars by the foundation.