The “hair bands” of the 1980s gave us some of the most iconic anthems in the history of rock and roll. These groups had a significant influence not only on music, culture and fashion, but also on untold millions of adolescents, including Josh Lessard, guitar teacher at Raa Middle School. As a teenager, Lessard was drawn into heavy metal by bands like Poison, Guns N’ Roses, and Stryper, but it was the genre’s emphasis on guitar riffs that held his attention.
“The solo in 'Sweet Child of Mine' really encouraged me,” recalled Lessard. “I picked up my Dad’s guitar and taught myself chords and then my parents plugged me into lessons.” He was introduced to classical guitar soon afterward as part of the audition process for enrollment in an arts magnet high school. He began a more thorough exploration of classical guitar and thought, “I like this. I can rehearse, and my ears don’t ring afterward and I can play a piece all by myself, I don’t have to have a band.”
Lessard went on to study guitar in college and he delights in sharing the musical knowledge he has accumulated over his lifetime. In many ways, he has come full circle, as he currently teaches at Raa, an arts magnet school. Students can choose from a number of arts offerings and Lessard shared “I love that we can fit the students’ personalities with so many different electives. Some students that thrive in band, try guitar and it’s just not for them. Or they failed miserably in one of the other music classes but they come to guitar and it just fits their personality.”
In his seven years on the faculty, Lessard has had the opportunity to try a few different things himself. Originally brought on to lead Raa’s orchestra program, over the years, students demonstrated enough of an interest in guitar that he could dedicate his focus to building a comprehensive curriculum. He now teaches two advanced and two beginning classes as well as an exploratory class for 6th-graders. The total enrollment for his classes amounts to more than 100 students.
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