Guitar lessons in Blaine a family affair

Elaina Yost got the chance to strum her father’s guitar while sitting on his lap at the family cabin and she loved it.

Eric Nehring of Blaine has 10 years experience giving guitar lessons to people of all ages, including kids as young as five. The Childbloom Guitar Program is unique because lessons include two to four kids of the same age range and musical ability and parents must be actively involved in their child’s lessons. Children of the wide age range shown in this photo normally would not be in lessons together, but Nehring wanted to get a larger group together to show how the lessons are run. Nehring is working with (left to right) Emma Bowman, 11, Elaina Yost, 6, and Alesha Johnson, 7. Parents Liz Johnson and Richard Yost of Blaine are observing. Photo by Eric Hagen

Eric Nehring of Blaine has 10 years experience giving guitar lessons to people of all ages, including kids as young as five. The Childbloom Guitar Program is unique because lessons include two to four kids of the same age range and musical ability and parents must be actively involved in their child’s lessons. Children of the wide age range shown in this photo normally would not be in lessons together, but Nehring wanted to get a larger group together to show how the lessons are run. Nehring is working with (left to right) Emma Bowman, 11, Elaina Yost, 6, and Alesha Johnson, 7. Parents Liz Johnson and Richard Yost of Blaine are observing. Photo by Eric Hagen

Richard Yost of Blaine picked his daughter up early from school Sept. 16 and surprised her with the news that she would be getting guitar lessons.

“I was happy,” said Elaina, who is six years old and one of Blaine resident Eric Nehring’s students in a guitar lesson program for five- to 12-year-olds that seeks parental and peer involvement.

Although Nehring has given lessons over the past 10 years to people of all ages and kids as young as five years old, the Childbloom Guitar Program developed by a music professor in Texas incorporates two to four young musicians of similar age and talent as well as parents into the lessons, and students play smaller scale guitars.

What Nehring said the program seeks to avoid are parents “dropping their kid off and going to Target for half-hour” and telling their children to “go to your room and practice for a half-hour and come out when you’re done and you can eat.”

“The cornerstone of any successful education program is engagement and with young people that includes parental engagement,” he said.

It does not matter if the parents have no musical background. Nehring involves them in the lessons so they can work with their kids when practicing at home.

Another key difference between the Childbloom Guitar Program and other guitar lesson programs is it brings groups of musicians of the same age together.

Ensemble groups are not unique with most musicians, but it is unique for guitar players to just play with other guitarists. The classes eventually allow students to learn a specific part for an ensemble score that they can play in a recital for family and friends.

“We’re breaking down that isolated barrier and bringing the kids together in a social environment,” Nehring said.

However, he said that in the early stages of recruiting new students, there may be more one-on-one instruction or parents can wait until more kids of the same age as their child sign up. Nehring does not put a five-year-old student in the same class as a 12-year-old student, for instance. They are grouped based on musical ability.

The goal is to “ensure the curriculum is appropriate for their developmental level,” he said.

Groups could be as small as two and as large as four, according to Nehring.

Emma Bowman, 11, of Blaine has experience playing piano, flute and trombone since she became a musician in kindergarten. She loves to play because it calms her down.

“I just love music and I wanted to try something new,” she said when asked why she wants to take guitar lessons.

Nehring heard about the Childbloom Guitar Program from a college professor at the University of St. Thomas 10 years ago. As he taught at Good Guy Music in Andover, the Chaska School of Music and most recently at the University of Minnesota over the past decade, his intrigue about this program never faltered.

In August, his family took a road trip to Austin, Texas, so he could become certified in the program, which was developed in 1980 by Kevin Taylor, a professor at Southwest University in Georgetown, Texas.

Elaina Yost is following in the footsteps of her father, who learned guitar at the age of five after watching the television show “Hee Haw.”

Richard has heard that “the earlier you get kids in music, the more it enhances their ability to learn, not just music,” he said.

Both Liz Johnson’s daughter Lexi, 9, and Alesha, 7, play the piano, are in dance classes and will be tutored on the guitar by Nehring.

“(Alesha) started with piano a couple years ago, but has always wanted to do guitar and I encouraged her to do piano first,” Liz said while Alesha stood at her side, tightly holding her new cased guitar. “She’s always liked music, but Disney Channel definitely helps. The Ross Lynch and R5 group she’s gaga over them.”

Liz said Alesha and Lexi’s grandfather said to them, “If you’re going to learn guitar, then he’s probably going to have to, too.”

Nehring continues to work with guitar players of all ages through the Minnesota Guitar Academy that he owns and he is a doctor of musical arts candidate at the University of Minnesota, majoring in guitar performance and music education.

For the Childbloom program, he is currently giving lessons from 3-8 p.m. every Monday at the Club West clubhouse at 11211 Club West Parkway NE in Blaine and Tuesdays through Fridays in Spring Lake Park at 7710 Central Ave. NE.

There is a $35 enrollment fee per family, which includes a CD of the music that will be played, exercises the students will be learning and a subscription to The Childbloom Monthly Newsletter, which includes local events and contests the children can participate in.

Tuition is $98 per month for the first child. Siblings are half-price, so a family of three kids would pay $196 per month. Private lessons with Nehring are $144 per month. There are 42 lessons per year and there could be anywhere from three to five lessons a month.

For more information, visit www.twincitiesnorth.childbloom.com or call Nehring at 763-203-4296.

Find out more about the Childbloom Guitar Program led by Eric Nehring at a Tuesday, Oct. 22 open house from 5-7 p.m. at the Club West Clubhouse, 11211 Club West Parkway NE, in Blaine.

Eric Hagen is at eric.hagen@ecm-inc.com

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