ANNAPOLIS – The students in Michael Miller’s guitar classes are so excited about receiving a new electric guitar that they’ve already formed a list of who will play the instrument first.
Miller, a music director at Anne Arundel County’s Old Mill High School, said his 70 guitar students are begging to play the new Paul Reed Smith electric guitar that is expected to arrive in the mail any day. The school only provides classical acoustic guitars.
Smith, founder of Maryland electric guitar manufacturing company PRS Guitars, has donated an electric guitar to all 208 Maryland public high schools.
Smith first spoke of the donation in May, during a ceremony in which he was named Maryland Small Business Person of the Year.
“When Paul went into schools . . . he saw that the music programs were really lacking instruments and funding,” said Laura Rausch, PRS Guitars spokeswoman. “Playing music was a way for him (Smith) to express himself and he wanted students to have that same opportunity.”
Smith will not be disappointed by student response to his donation.
“My guitar classes are very excited to be getting it,” Miller said. “The kids all want to play an electric guitar.”
Old Mill High senior Laurie Huebschman always wanted a PRS guitar, but could never afford one. Playing one at school will be enough until she can save up to buy her own.
“PRS is a good brand. I think it’s a privilege to be able to play one,” she said.
The majority of schools will use the guitars in their jazz bands and during choral performances, school officials said. Many Maryland high schools also plan to use the guitars for classes.
PRS Guitars, based in Kent Island, started in 1985. The company is known worldwide and its guitars are used by musician Carlos Santana and rock bands Creed, Puddle of Mudd and P.O.D., making them popular with students.
The donated guitars, called the Santana SE model, sell for $738.
“A lot of times music and the fine arts are the types of programs you can really get students interested in,” said Maryland Department of Education spokeswoman Linda Bazerjian.
Allegany County does not offer guitar classes in schools, however, Smith’s donation may increase student interest in guitars and make way for the creation of classes in its three high schools, said Craig Schutz, supervisor of fine arts for the county Board of Education.
Smith donates guitars to many charitable organizations, including the Chesterwye Foundation for mentally handicapped adults and Johns Hopkins pediatric oncology program.
In Cecil County high schools, guitar lessons are offered but students have to provide their instruments. Smith’s donation will not only improve Cecil County’s guitar program but it may encourage more students to take the class, said C. Nelson Fritts Jr., fine arts instructional coordinator for Cecil County Public Schools.
“I think it just enhances what we’re doing with the guitar program.”