Posted on March 11, 2011 by Tia Lalani

Community Service-Learning student Jon Nesbitt talks to Laurie Callsen of the Camrose Canadian.

By Laurie Callsen, Camrose Canadian

An Augustana student is reaching out to provide free music lessons to at-risk youth in the community.

Jon Nesbitt, a fourth-year music student at Augustana, is providing free music lessons at the Open Door as part of his Community Service Learning (CSL) course.

Nesbitt began the volunteer music lessons in his native Grande Prairie, where his mother also does musical outreach with a teen shelter. When Nesbitt moved to Camrose for school at Augustana, he wanted to continue on the same path. He knows how important music can be in someone’s life, but realized not everyone can afford it.

"For me, it’s not so much about getting them to be these amazing musicians… it’s more or less about them realizing that they can do something like this," he said.

The most important thing is giving them this opportunity and reminding them that they have value and they can accomplish things."

There are more outreach youth in Camrose than Nesbitt can teach, so he’s currently focusing his efforts on the Cafe Connections staff, where youth work to gain valuable experience for resumes.

One of Nesbitt’s students is Taylor Hanson, who works in the cafe. She’s been taking lessons from Nesbitt for about three weeks.

"I always wanted to learn how to play the piano, since I was little. Now that I can actually do it, it’s really nice. I’m getting the hang of it," she said while playing some Coldplay.

"The way that Jon teaches, he makes it really fun and interesting and funny. He makes it very entertaining. It makes it easier (to learn)."

Nesbitt said he has altered his teaching methods to engage his students. Instead of focusing on book learning and theory, he chooses to focus on what students want to learn.

"I will never teach piano the same because I’ve just realized the importance of enjoyment and fun and the love of music before even emphasizing improving," he explained.

"I want to meet them where they’re at in music. I tell them any song you want to learn, I’ll figure it out on the piano and teach you. That’s been really interesting."

Open Door Executive Director Randal Nickle has seen how the program has helped the youth in the community. He appreciates that it was something Nesbitt approached the Open Door with, not the other way around, and hopes that the program will continue once Nesbitt has convocated. He noted the importance for at-risk youth to have some sort of creative outlet.

"There’s been some real good connections" said Nickle.

"(The clients are) trying to provide another meaningful way of positively expressing (themselves) and I think that has been great to do it on a pretty small trial like this."

Nickle was impressed with the way Nesbitt is able to connect with his students.

"He has the ability to make people feel comfortable when he walks into the room."

If anyone is interested in getting involved or donating instruments, they can contact Nesbitt at 780-781-1191.

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