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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

NE guitar club, ensemble let students strum for fun

By Bethany Peterson/reporter

Interest in the guitar has grown from a few classes to an ensemble to a club since Jan Ryberg began teaching on NE Campus in 1979.The NE Campus Guitar Ensemble began a recent practice with a piece instructor Jan Ryberg wrote called “The Greatest Song Ever Written.”

Latina-inspired, the simply structured chords were designed for the soloist to improvise over. Palms slapped on the body of one guitar added a deeper, drum-like element.

Next came “The Frog Galliard,” written by John Dowland in the early 1600s and adapted for a guitar ensemble. Nicknamed Froggy by the group, this lullaby-type song represents the other structured style the ensemble plays, music specifically arranged into three or four parts and played without improvising.

Amid the between-song banter, Ryberg began to sing a spur-of-the-moment creation: “If the two were one, that would be so much more fun. …” Without prompting, the whole group picked up the new unrehearsed song for a moment of spontaneous creativity.

Settled down again, the ensemble rounded out its routine with “The Boy’s Lament for His Dragon,” a Scotch-Irish tune adapted for the guitar.

The mood of the group was relaxed and friendly but dedicated to producing good work.

Conversation and banter flowed easily between white-haired women, a preteen boy and the younger college students, but a businesslike air remained intact.

“We play whatever,” Ryberg said. “The stress is on student-generated material.”

Members can suggest songs they like or even songs that they have personally written.

Their congenial attitude has extended beyond the classroom.

The group now consists of the ensemble and a new Guitar Club. All ensemble members are part of the club, but club members do not have to play any instrument. To join the ensemble, a student registers for the guitar ensemble class. Students can join the club through CampusCruiser.

The club’s first activity this semester is a fundraising concert and an open mic event 8 p.m. Oct. 12 in NSTU Center Corner. Admission is $2, and all concession items will be $1. Students who want to perform will pay a $3 entry fee.

Performances are not limited to guitars. Students can play other instruments or sing. The door prize is a guitar care kit, and the club will hold a silent auction for an acoustic guitar.

The ensemble will hold a recital at 8 p.m. Dec. 2 in the NSTU Center Corner. The club also hosts guitar artists throughout the year.

“We’re exited about guitar and want others to be too,” Vice President Hannah Bridges said.

Though the ensemble has existed for more than 20 years, the club started last semester so students can explore and learn about guitars and to increase student interest, according to the club’s page on CampusCruiser.

Being a TCC-sponsored club also makes it easier for the ensemble to raise funds for its trip to the Guitar Ensemble Festival in Brownsville, Ryberg said. The ensemble has competed in the festival’s college division five times and has won first place three times.

“We go in cycles,” he said.

Ryberg said the ensemble’s ability changes from year to year with the experience of the members.

“Right now, we’re at a high point with two or three members planning to major in guitar,” he said.

Mary Utley holds the title for the longest membership with nine years of ensemble playing. She began playing guitar when she was 30 years old, 35 years ago.

“It [the ensemble] is a good avenue for senior citizens to continue their passion,” she said.

Matthew Walton and Bridges said their fathers inspired them while Mikey Newton “thought it would be fun to jam with [his high school friends].” Newton and his brother, Christopher, hope to start a rock band someday and “do big things with it,” Christopher Newton said.

Twelve-year-old Grant Shurtz is the ensemble’s youngest member.

“I asked for a guitar for Christmas. I thought it would be easy,” he said. “I was wrong.”

Shurtz began taking lessons from Ryberg three years ago.

Kristin Dunn switched from piano and violin to guitar 15 years ago. She made the change because in high school that was the cool thing to do.

“I found out that this is what I really like,” she said.

Club President Dallas Kaemmerling said he got a guitar for his eighth birthday because he had been a good boy during the previous summer.  After eight weeks of lessons, he put the guitar aside until he began taking lessons from a neighbor four years ago. When he came to TCC two years later, he was the driving force behind the formation of the Guitar Club, Ryberg said.

Kaemmerling plans to transfer to Southern Methodist University and study under guitarist Robert Guthrie, who also taught Ryberg.

Kaemmerling’s passion for guitar goes beyond just playing. With trial and much error, he taught himself to build guitars. He can buy all the materials he needs for $200.

“When you see a $750 guitar, that’s $550 of sweat and tears,” he said.

Bridges said she wants to “go where I’m needed” with her guitar. She currently plays her guitar for the NE Campus Crusade club.

With chuckles of “hold on” from ensemble members, Ryberg told his story.

He started playing guitar in 1964 while in seventh grade. In high school, his band, Bluesberry Jam, practiced with the amps set to 10.

“My ears have been ringing since I was 17,” he said.

Ryberg has played classical guitar ever since and began teaching at TCC in 1979.

In the future, Ryberg wants the club to “just keep going, keep enjoying.”

The ensemble gives TCC students an important basis: a place to play together and to grow out from, he said.

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