Guitar program expands to get kids 'in tune' with school

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A free guitar program started by a local group will be addedto more middle schools and high schools at a time when many districts arecutting arts programs.  Lead Guitar is about to expand with help fromUApresents.

For students like 15-year-old Macario Soto, it's a programthat changes lives.

"It was a way that I got my emotions out. I was able toexpress whether I was mad or sad or happy," says Macario.

"We take classic heavy metal songs like Iron Man andKashmir and we make classical guitar arrangements of them," says BradRichter.  He's the director of education with UA Presents as well as theexecutive director of Lead Guitar.

"We meet them halfway in a sense that they're playing themusic they want to play but they have to access it by reading standardnotation," says Richter.

Macario picked up the guitar three years ago at a time whenhe was failing his classes and struggling to make friends.

"We came to find out he had an attention disorder," says hismother, Cecilia Soto.  "He was always by himself.  He never talkedabout friends."

Then she says things just clicked the more Macariopracticed.

"I felt like, oh I can play the guitar, I can also do myhomework," says Macario

"The brain is like any other muscle," says Richter. "The more you exercise it the more powerful it is."

By this time next year, Lead Guitar will be in twice as manyArizona schools with more than a dozen in the Tucson area.  That's thanksto a new partnership with UApresents.

"Hearing him say mom I want to do this professionally,that's the first time I heard him talk about going to a university," saysCecilia.

"People ask me why do I bring my guitar everywhere," saysMacario, "and I just say practice."

Lead Guitar is a free program that provides donated guitarsto students.  To learn more about how to donate, visit their website at www.leadguitar.org or call Brad Richter at(520) 621-0342.