Each week the twang of guitars is common in the Yacht Club as Villagers come together with a thirst for learning.
The Tellico Village Guitar Club has met since 2017.
“Jack (Padgett) is the one who actually really started, kicked over the first domino,” Richard Grech, club member, said. “He set us up at the Chota (Recreation) Center two years ago, plus just to see how much activity and interest there was here in the Village, and he’s the one that really started.”
In a unique turn of events, the student brought in the teacher.
“What we did, and this was sort of funny, Jack was one of my private students. I live in Etowah, and after two or three years of Jack taking the lessons, we sort of floated the idea would there be any interest in Tellico Village?” Ronnie Raper Jr., club instructor, said. “So what we decided to do to minimize our risk of failure is we advertised a one-day guitar workshop, and when I pulled into the parking lot I’m watching all of these people carrying their guitars. Of course, I didn’t know none of them at that time, and after the first session they said, ‘Would you come back?’ We’ve come back ever since just having a blast.”
What started as a workshop for all skill levels has expanded into separate sessions on the same day. Sessions are 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. for intermediate, advanced and beginner, respectively.
“There’s a real need for it,” Jack Padgett, club founder, said. “People are retiring, they have guitars, they want to play, and a lot of them have put it off and put it off for years. Now they’re getting started playing, so we have a huge beginners class and that class after this one is even more beginners. So this is the advanced class here. So now we have three classes.”
Newcomers are encouraged to attend all three sessions to help determine skill level in hopes of making their participation “feel like home,” Raper said.
“Some people don’t know what level they’re at,” he said. “They might think, ‘Woo, and this is beginners? I’ll stick with beginner.’ Some people are stuck between almost playing stage but not quite and they might choose the advanced.”
As an instructor, Raper has led individual and group sessions. There are some benefits to playing in a group, which he feels makes it easier for a newcomer to join.
“I think that’s the biggest secret,” he said. “I think most people’s perception is always that private lessons are better, but when you do the group lessons you find out, ‘Oh wait a minute, oh you’re struggling with this, too.’ The person next to you said, ‘Oh yeah, I stink at this.’ It actually makes it easier. Now think about it, if you take private lessons from me, let’s say you pull off that nasty Stevie Ray Vaughn lick. Well, there’s no one around to celebrate that. But when you’re in the group setting, that lick, they’re clapping.”
“They say, ‘You’re so good at that’,” Padgett added.
With a couple years under their belt, Raper wants the group to put their skills to the test. Plans are to perform in late September for residents at The Neighborhood at Tellico Village. That will mark the first time the group has branched out into the public. Raper hopes to use the group as a “form of ministry in the Village.”
“Because I realize from experience it’s not good enough for me to say, ‘Let’s go home and practice now and get better’,” he said. “You got to have a reason to. Realizing also that music as much as we think is for us — usually it’s our own personal interest that gets us involved — I find out the opposite is true and I’m not just trying just to be different for the sake of being different. Music is for a person to share it with.”
Grech has been with the group since the beginning and now finds himself in the intermediate group.
“Years ago I played guitar, and I dropped it for a lot of years, and it was part of the bucket list I always wanted pick it up and try it again,” he said. “I still had a guitar, so when I read that Ronnie was going to have a workshop, I thought it was a great opportunity to pick it up and start learning again. ... When you’re retired you have time to do all the things that you wanted to do but didn’t have time to do when you were working, raising kids, family, travel, that kind of thing. So when you’re retired you have a little bit more time and you look back and you start doing things that you enjoyed doing or wanted to do, whether it’s playing golf or whether it’s picking up a new hobby or a new interest.”
There is a $15 fee to cover videos and musical sheets for songs members learn, Raper said.
“(From) 1:30 to 2 (p.m.), 30 minutes on Friday in the month of September, anybody wanting to get started, we’ll do a free 30-minute session,” Raper said. “Come by anytime.”