In the center of a YWCA exercise room, brothers Will and Jamie Barry pull a half-dozen acoustic guitars out of cases and place them on the floor.
As the time gets closer to 5 p.m., kids begin to trickle into the workout room. They each grab a guitar, strumming the strings haphazardly, yet with purpose, before taking a seat next to the brothers.
Once a week during the school year, Will, 18, and Jamie, 16, go to the YWCA on Park Road and give guitar lessons to youth ages 5 through 12. The instruction is part of the YWCA Youth Learning Centers after-school program, designed for children who live in fragile, low-income neighborhoods.
The mission: Encourage individual development and provide youth with tools and skills they need to succeed.
(Will and Jamie) provide very good structure for the kids, said Altacie Stitt, YWCA Youth Learning Center coordinator. Guitar lessons are extra and give (the kids) a chance to try something new.
At the last guitar lesson of the school year, about six youth formed a circle in the middle of the room and picked the chords to Deep Purples Smoke on the Water. Some created their own lyrics and new chords, while a familiar Mary Had a Little Lamb could be heard in between plucks of strings.
I just like the sound of the music and how its played, said guitar student Nijel Cook, a fourth-grader at Sedgefield Elementary.
For an hour every Wednesday evening, Will and Jamie work with the students to enhance their musical talents. Guitar student Brickson Sam, a fourth-grader at Sedgefield Elementary, said because of the lessons, he now wants to grow up to be a rock star.
The tricks that Ive learned (on guitar) are so cool, Brickson said. And (they) are teaching us to never give up.
The brothers, both Myers Park High students, started the program in February.
More than anything, we wanted to keep it interesting for the kids and keep it something where they were generally enjoying themselves instead of doing scales and boring stuff every day, Will said.
But this wasnt their first time teaching guitar lessons.
The two had begun giving lessons at Alexander Graham Middle in the 2010-11 school year. Will said he first pondered a need for more arts-oriented activities for students after speaking to his mother, who often volunteered at the school.
The budget cuts are a mess, especially on the middle school level. Extracurricular activities are absolutely being wiped out, Will said.
Will and Jamie said they wanted to use their talents as a way to combat those shrinking extracurricular activities. Combined, the two have about 15 years of guitar experience. So, they did what they know best play guitar and began giving lessons once a week at Alexander Graham.
The after-school program there began with one student coming in for a lesson but quickly grew to more than a dozen, Will said. Because of that growth, the brothers enlisted the help of three friends to help teach. But the program grew so popular, they still had to turn many students away.
More than them limiting us, we (had) to limit ourselves, because we (had) a limited amount of instructors and a limited amount of space, Will said.
They also worried about missing their target of at-risk youth. So they asked school leaders to begin selecting the students who could take lessons.
After one year of the after-school program, Will said, it became too difficult for administrators to choose students who qualified to participate in the program geared toward at-risk children, so lessons were canceled.
But the brothers said they didnt want the program to end there. So, they turned to the YWCA, where Will previously had been a summer intern.
In the fall, Jamie will take over leading the lessons, as Will travels to Durham to attend Duke University.
Its all about getting involved and being a part of the community, Jamie said.
And music allows you to express yourself and be who you are. Theres nothing like it.