Guitars4Vets believes that no guitar, like no soldier, should be left behind.
So far, the Wisconsin-based nonprofit organization has arranged 50,000 guitar lessons and distributed over 5,000 guitars to wounded U.S. military veterans across the country.
Now, a three-month exhibit at The University Club atop Symphony Towers in downtown San Diego is showcasing how transformed guitars can transform lives. Proceeds from the exhibit, which features guitar fine art by eleven prominent U.S. artists, will support the nonprofit’s mission to help wounded veterans find new purpose through music.
Artists from California, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Minnesota, Virginia, New York, Maine and Illinois donated their time to express their personal design aesthetics in support of those who sacrificed to defend our country. Many of the guitars are older and were once viewed as unwanted. But at the exhibit, which runs through October 23, they are presented as beautiful fine art pieces with a purpose — to help sponsor war veterans.
El Cajon-based Taylor Guitars donated one of their new custom guitars for the exhibit, which was artistically transformed by San Diego artist Sue Britt.
According to the most recent statistics, there are more than 800,000 U.S. veterans who struggle with physical injuries, PTSD and other emotional distress.
“We believe that guitars can help with the overall healing process,” said a Guitars4Vets press release issued as part of the exhibit. “Music helps to decrease anxiety, increase self-esteem and reduce episodes of panic attacks, nightmares and flashbacks.”
Guitars4Vets got its start in 2007 when a Milwaukee guitar instructor, Patrick Nettesheim, was introduced to Vietnam-era Marine vet Dan Van Buskirk.
For years, Van Buskirk had wanted to learn to play the guitar but felt the lasting effects of combat, in the form of post-traumatic-stress disorder (PTSD), would make it difficult for him to succeed.
After just a few months of working with Nettesheim, Van Buskirk said he rediscovered the strong spirit that helped him during his time in Vietnam was all he needed to play music.
Guitars4Vets has developed a program aimed at providing veterans struggling with physical injuries, PTSD and other emotional distress a unique therapeutic alternative.
The organization provides free guitar instruction, a new acoustic guitar and a guitar accessory kit in a structured program run by volunteers, primarily through Department of Veterans Affairs facilities and community-based medical centers.
A research study of Guitars4Vets students showed a 21% improvement in PTSD symptoms and a 27% decrease in related symptoms of depression after taking up the guitar.
“Learning and playing guitar are the primary catalysts for these improvements and our mission is to have as many vets as possible have an opportunity to play,” Nettesheim said.
It costs $200 to send each veteran through a local Guitars4Vets program. There is one Guitars4Veterans chapter in San Diego, ten chapters in California and 130 chapters across the country.
More information about the program — including how to purchase a guitar featured in the exhibit — is available at www.Guitars4Vets.org or by scanning the QR code on the exhibit flyer. (Note: The University Club is a private, membership-based organization and not open to the general public.)