September 14, 2020 I Pandemic Stories

GAMA Perseveres in Pandemic

GAMA conducts a Teaching Guitar Workshop virtually in Nashville.

As in all corners of MI, the coronavirus quarantine proved to be a major disruptor this year for the Guitar and Accessories Marketing Association. But, according to Skip Beltz, director of product management at Martin Guitars and president of GAMA, the association has remained connected with its membership and dedicated to its primary purpose during the last six months

“When coronavirus quarantine first hit us, it didn’t affect GAMA any differently than everybody else,” Beltz said. “It was a complete surprise. We were coming into our season where we do our Teaching Guitar Workshops, which is really the driving force behind GAMA — it’s our bailiwick. We put a lot of effort into teaching teachers how to effectively pass on guitar teaching classes to their students.”

GAMA’s Teaching Guitar Workshops are two classes — level one and level two courses — affiliated with Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville and VanderCook College in Chicago. Participants are given packets of training books and accessories donated by GAMA members.

The association was set to do its usual run of these in-person courses in June. “We were set up to have 25 workshops around the country including Hawaii and Alaska,” said Glen McCarthy, executive director of Teaching Guitar Workshops and an adjunct professor at George Mason University. These classes would have occurred at public schools, colleges and universities and music stores.

When it became clear none of this could happen, Steve Krenz, adjunct professor, guitar, at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville stepped in to help. “[He] felt that he could still host a workshop there,” McCarthy said. “So he checked with his dean and the college itself and they were fine with that. So we had three people [who] actually took the class live while we also did it virtually. And we had 25 people virtually.”

This occurred from July 13 to 17. The packets were mailed out to virtual participants, who, McCarthy noted, were able to benefit from the classes while saving on the travel and expenses they might incur from attending.

“We think that it went very, very well and will be an opportunity in the future,” Beltz said.

Beltz commented on the role of associations in a crisis. “A lot of times there are organizations like GAMA that exist and people don’t know it,” he said. “But when something like this happens, this pandemic, people are looking for bright spots, for positive energy, something that’s good. And what we do aside from Teaching Guitar Workshops is, because we’re nonprofit, if we make enough money to be able to, we contribute to other nonprofit organizations that try to help spread music.”

Beltz also pointed to the role music plays in getting people through challenging times. “A lot of us in the music industry believe that music makes the world a better place, and guitar playing is one piece of that,” he said. “But music in general is proven to help people. It makes you feel better. And I think that’s important in this time, that we continue to lift people’s spirits.”

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