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Dominion Energy Veterans Guitar Workshop Series Creates Strong Bonds for Veterans

January 13, 2020

Veterans and the Arts

The Veterans and the Arts Initiative at the Hylton Performing Arts Center has provided arts opportunities for Veterans, Servicemembers, and their families since 2014. One arts opportunity in particular, The Dominion Energy Veterans Guitar Workshop Series, lets participants borrow a guitar if they do not own one. This year a few of those borrowed guitars were given away as gifts. A tradition now on its 5th cycle running.

“We noticed that a lot of Veterans and their family members had an interest in playing the guitar but didn’t necessarily have a guitar,” said Dr. Niyati Dhokai, Program Director for the Veterans and the Arts Initiative and Research Assistant Professor, College of Visual and Performing Arts. “We looked at other programs, most of which were based at VAMCs – like Guitars 4 Vets – that provided guitars after 10 weeks of guitar lessons and thought that this could be a good model to follow for community-based guitar workshops as well.”

The guitar workshops began in 2015 as part of the Veteran and the Arts Initiative’s annual Celebrating Veterans and the Arts event at the Hylton Center, a free event open to the public in celebration of Veterans Day Weekend. Dr. Dhokai credits the workshops' success to the impact it has on its participants. “It’s an opportunity to make a ‘bucket list’ happen for someone, or for two family members to connect. Even better is when participants connected with the greater sense of community within the class.”

Guitar giveaway recipients Gary K., U.S. Army and his daughter experienced an opportunity to reconnect first-hand:

“I initially signed up to encourage my daughter to practice more on a holiday gift instrument,” said Gary K., U.S. Army. “What I did not anticipate was how much fun my daughter and I had traveling to and from the Hylton Center. It became a shared ‘thing’ and was easily the highlight of my week. Dominion Power and the sponsors of the Veterans Guitar Workshop provide a truly fantastic experience which in turn provides opportunities to connect with family and fellow Veterans. Doing this through music gives an element that returns me to my joys of youth while allowing me to share them with my children (my other daughters have also been practicing our lessons at home).”

This sense of togetherness is what Dr. Dhokai says is most rewarding about the guitar workshops.  “What is also heartwarming and so reflective of the Veteran community, is that those who are unable to attend enough workshops to receive a guitar always make sure they return their guitars, so the guitars can be used by other Veterans and family members. It means a lot to see participants return with their guitars and enjoy playing them.”

Check out our spring opportunities for Veterans:
There’s still time to register for Veterans and the Arts Initiative workshops before classes fill up. In February, drop by our Dominion Energy Veterans Guitar Workshop Series for an informal session (Levels I & Level II available). Musicians of all skill levels are invited to bring their own guitar, or try one of ours, in a ten-week series of string-plucking fun. That same month join instructor Martin Cervantez, Master Sergeant, USA (Ret.) in Drawing from Photographs. This workshop offers instruction with demos covering basic drawing materials and shading a complete drawing. Youth ages 14 and up may participate alongside an adult family member or guardian.

These workshops are FREE and open to Veterans, Servicemembers, their families, and military caregivers. Space is limited.

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