An overview.

‘Guitar Building for Veterans’ (GBFV) is a program designed to help veterans, help veterans. The program works by first teaching the art of guitar making to the veteran or first-responder who signs up for one of our many on-location, hands-on, guitar building courses.

Next, depending on the program length (which will have a student making anywhere from one, to five, or even more guitars), the student then donates the guitar(s) of their choosing to a fellow veteran who may be suffering from PTSD or other depressive disorders. In short, veterans building guitars for veterans.

The program’s success is two-fold; 1)The veteran signing up for the guitar building course learns the art of guitar making, decreases personal stress and finds a renewed sense of expression and purpose, and; 2)The recipient experiences the benefits music, an increased sense of purpose, a reduction in stress and a feeling of more ‘presence’ in their life through playing an instrument.

Lastly, both parties are recipients in the mutual exchange of giving and receiving. We call this a ‘Win / Win’!

Guitar Building for Vets in a Nutshell

Why is Guitar Building Helpful?

Woodworking as therapy.

Several studies have shown that there is a significant difference in brain activity when comparing those who merely look at art to those who actually create it. For the latter, there is a specific chemical reaction that takes place in the brain that leads to a reduction in stress and an increased feeling of well-being.

To this point, there is no doubt that when one applies themselves into a hobby, skill or vocation that they are aligned with internally, that they can derive a greater sense of purpose and a renewed perspective.

Woodworking as a form of ‘art therapy’ can serve as a sort of ‘mental sanctuary’. Immersing oneself into a skill such as woodworking, or guitar making demands a state of presence and focus, which in turn can mitigate the ruminating mind and keep one in the moment.

Woodworking As Therapy for PTSD and Depression

While it may sound like a cliché, being ‘in the moment’ allows a person to detach from a mind that is cluttered with actual or perceived past or future events. Both of these extremes tend to fill the minds with feelings of torment, regret, fear, and anxiety.

Further, guitar making (and woodworking in general) asks a person to think conceptually and to then carry out a process of bringing raw materials into completed works of art by way of constant attention to detail as well as a high level of hand-eye coordination. It is a skill that continuously rewards us with challenges, appreciation, connection and even celebration with a sense of pride for a completed project.

"Because my shop is a sacred space that changes me... when I transform wood, it transforms me."

-Darin M.

What Exactly is PTSD?

…And how do I know if I have it?

PTSD or ‘Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder’ is an anxiety disorder that can result from a traumatic event. This can include:

  • Natural disasters
  • Car crashes
  • Sexual or physical assaults
  • Terrorist attacks
  • Combat during wartime

MDD or ‘Major Depressive Disorder’ is a mood disorder that causes a loss of interest or a persistent feeling of sadness. Also called depression or clinical depression, MDD affects how one feels, thinks and behaves and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.

A clinical diagnosis for PTSD or MDD will come from a qualified medical practitioner (family physician or psychiatrist) or a registered/licensed psychologist.

For more information, see this document.

If you suspect you may be suffering from PTSD or MDD and are a military veteran, contact veterans affairs case worker to discuss your options:

How Can Donating a Guitar, Help?

Music as Therapy.

Those suffering from PTSD and other depressive disorders often go to great lengths to avoid situations, memories, thoughts and feelings that are related to the initial trauma(s) that they’ve experienced. This avoidance behaviour tends to further isolate the individual thereby compounding the very feelings they would like to free themselves from.

Carr et al., 2011 writes, “…ultimately, group music therapy can allow patients to increase their social engagement in a safe space.” Clinical practices and epidemiological studies aside, it seems clear that for the person suffering from PTSD, simply connecting to like-minded people in a musical context such as at a jam night or weekly music practice would have a profoundly positive effect on the individual’s sense of community and feelings of connection and cohesion .

Further, studies have shown that music can “increase the release of endorphins to the brain, boosting positive feelings while reducing fear, self-awareness, and sadness, improving one’s overall emotional state.” (). In this way, donating a guitar to a fellow veteran can afford the recipient a form of ‘music therapy’ and can serve as a beacon for those suffering from the effects of PTSD and other major depressive disorders.

“Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life bringing peace, abolishing strife.”

― Kahlil Gibran

How do I Learn More About Your Guitar Building Courses?

At the Whitney School of Guitar Building, we offer a wide array of hands-on and on-site guitar building courses. From 7- and 14-day shorter workshops to 3-, 6-, and even 12-month programs, we can accommodate most schedules and levels of interest.

The first step is to review the guitar building courses that are available and then check the start dates for the given course.

If a course is listed as ‘booked’ or ‘unavailable’, be sure to send me a note as often schedules change or we may consider offering additional classes.

Please note, that if you are a US or Canadian veteran and would like to enrol in the ‘Guitar Building for Vets’ program, once we receive your supporting documentation, we can send you a code for a 15% discount on any course that we offer.

Are There Other Ways I can Help?

Definitely. Course donations help you to sponsor a US or CDN military veteran or first-responder to take one of our many guitar building courses.

Your donation will assist with guitar building materials such as woods and hardware as well as to help me as a teacher with shop utilities and other expenses while teaching the course.

Finally, all donations get ‘banked’ until a course fee target is a 7-day, 14-day or 3-month course target are met. At that point, we will inform the veteran or first-responder applicant of course availability and assist them on their path to healing through guitar making.

Please note that your donation can be left anonymous if you wish, or we can make mention of your generous contributions. You can let us know your preference when you submit your donation.


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