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Guitar Heroes

Popular KHHS class making profound impact on students, musical landscape

Don Coble
Posted 5/2/24

KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – If the walls of the chorus room are shaking, everything’s all right at Keystone Heights High. The muffled sound of loud music makes Principal Laurie Burke smile, even as early …

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Guitar Heroes

Popular KHHS class making profound impact on students, musical landscape


Posted

KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – If the walls of the chorus room are shaking, everything’s all right at Keystone Heights High.

The muffled sound of loud music makes Principal Laurie Burke smile, even as early as the first period.

“It’s great to hear them when I’m on that end of campus,” she said. “Any time a student finds something that they’re interested in and start becoming good at it, those students end up liking school and doing well because of that.

“Not everybody likes school just because of math and English. Sometimes, you have to have something that connects you with school. For a lot of our kids, it’s guitar class.”

And to stay in the class, the students must pass their other classes.

David Golden’s Guitar 1, 2 and 3 classes have become three of the most popular classes on campus. Students who fail a class will return to pass a year later just to get a seat in the guitar class. Others admit the classes are the main reason they haven’t dropped out.

“Sometimes I think, ‘Oh, I gotta go to school today, but I get to play guitar, so I think it all works,” said junior Henry Carter. “It makes it a lot easier to get through the day. It makes it a little less aggravating, and I can get some music out of it.”

Henry and three classmates from Keystone Heights created a band called Shopping Mall Guerillas. The others are bassist Matthew Hallowell, drummer Austin Girouard and guitarist Dylan Miller. The band opened in front of thousands for Duval County Line Friday night at Food Truck Friday at Spring Park in Green Cove Springs.

“There’s nothing like that feeling when you step on stage,” Hallowell said. “Music is a great way to express your emotions. There’s something about that energy that you can’t describe to anybody until you’re on stage with your friends and you’re playing music you enjoy. It really touches your soul.”

Golden said musicians, especially talented musicians, are eccentric by nature. Their ability to think outside the norm separates them from others with ordinary talent.

“We have a lot of bad days; some days are good,” he said. “We have artistic differences. Different people want to do different things. They all have to buy into it. And that’s what I appreciate: they all buy into it. This is a group process. We take turns being the stars. There are 20 people in the class who want to have their music played. Everybody has different musical tastes, so they have to buy into it. And they do a good job of that. I have an ego, too. At the end of the day, I get to win. Sometimes, they can convince me to change my mind. I have to be the one that makes the final decision about what we’re doing or what song we’re playing.”

Music is the common bond that ties the teacher and students.

Another band spawned from Golden’s classes is Bad Decision, which features A.J. Gouldrup on lead guitar.

“Music brings people together,” Gouldrup said. “It’s what brings us together. I haven’t always thought of school, but I’ve always focused on my music. So when I come to school, I can’t wait for my guitar class. That makes me so happy. Music has a big touch on my heart.”

The program's success prompted Paul Wane to donate a sound studio through his Rising Star Give a Kid a Guitar foundation. The gift included guitars, bass, drums, keyboards and lights.

Burke said the guitar classes have profoundly affected the entire school. Attendance has improved, and the school earned an ‘A’ rating and a “School of Excellence” designation from the Florida Department of Education.

“Does it have an impact on some of our students? Looking at the data with it, I would say yes, 100%,” she said. “Do kids stay in school because of that? I’m sure they do. We’ve got some very big success stories with students here.”

Sarah Coleman is a senior who only needs three credits to graduate. She can complete her studies online but chose to be on campus for chorus and guitar classes.

“I only have three classes here, and two of them are with Mr. Golden,” she said. “That’s pretty good motivation to come to school.”

And to keep rockin.’