RAY AND LOUISE NELSON FOUNDED GUITARS Not Guns in 2002 to help reduce violence in schools and on the streets by providing a music program for at-risk teens and other deserving children. Barbara Gorin discovered the organization four years later, and since then she has become its most charismatic supporter. “What I love most about Guitars Not Guns is bringing music to these kids’ lives,” she enthuses. “I love kids, I love music, and I love playing the guitar. On the first day of class, the students sign a contract that says they will take care of the guitar, that they will practice and come to all the classes, and that they’ll return the guitar. To see them play together at graduation eight weeks later is a joy, but it’s not the best part—the best part is when they find out they get to keep the guitars!”
Guitars Not Guns currently has more than 70 teachers in nearly 20 states, with additional chapters in Canada and the United Kingdom. In addition to major corporate sponsors, the organization receives gear and other support from manufacturers such as Fender, Gibson, Jim Dunlop, Dean Markley, Ernie Ball, Korg, Ace Products, Saint Blues, Steve Clayton, and Hot Picks. Gorin also solicits signed guitars from rock stars—such as the ones supplied by the members of Heart and Blondie— that she sells on eBay to raise money. “I just speak from my heart and people listen,” she says.