Archive for Thursday, May 20, 1999


May 20, 1999


A guitar instructor says he wants to create "a happy sense of learning" in his young students.

Classical guitarist John Jervis has performed seasonally with the San Diego, Denver and St. Louis symphonies. He's rubbed elbows with major-league musicians, and can be heard on several recordings of live radio shows.

But on this day, Jervis is sharing his self-taught expertise with three youngsters enrolled in the Haskell Avenue Guitar Project at the Pelathe Community Resource Center, 15th and Haskell.

Gwen Pennewell and Katie Steele, both 12-year-old students at Kennedy School, and Shawn Riley, a 9-year-old student at East Heights School, take turns playing chords before moving on to melodies.

The beginners class, which started two months ago and is sponsored by the Pelathe Center and the Boys and Girls Club, meets from 3 p.m. to about 4:30 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays. Eight students are enrolled.

"I like the sound of a guitar," Gwen, who also plays violin, says. "I come here on Wednesdays. I baby-sit on Mondays."

"I also play clarinet, and I want to be (able to play) multiple instruments," Katie says. "My dad plays guitar and he wants me to learn."

"I like the sound of it," Shawn says when asked why he's taking the class. " " I would like to play with my dad. When I see my dad play, it looks easy, but when I play it's hard."

The Pelathe Center received grants from the Mid-America Arts Alliance, based in Kansas City, Mo., and the Lawrence Arts Commission to fund the class, according to David Cade, executive director of the Pelathe Center.

A dozen Fender guitars were donated by the Bonnie Raitt Foundation, a charity program channeled through Boys and Girls Clubs and other social agencies to encourage inner-city youngsters to learn to play the guitar.

"The classes are going pretty well," Cade says. " " John brings a dignified character to the activity and he's a strong storyteller. So we're hoping to keep things going, but we're lacking for money."

Jervis, who hopes to generate enough interest to start offering classes Mondays through Wednesdays and on Fridays, says the guitar classes aren't only about learning how to play a guitar. Students also learn about the rewards of commitment and perseverance.

"I want to create a happy sense of learning, which is what I'm desperately about," he said. " " A few good pieces of feedback will save lives and communities."

Jervis, who's been playing on-stage since he was 15 and came to Lawrence two years ago, performs Thursday nights at Coco Loco, Friday through Sunday nights at Fifi's Restaurant and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays at First Watch Restaurant.

-- Jan Biles' phone message number is 832-7146. Her e-mail address is

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