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By Nozipo Wobogo
East Palo Alto Today
Posted January 5, 2011

Patrick Sweeney
(Click image to enlarge)

  Patrick Sweeney, the branch manager of the East Palo   Alto Library has stepped forward to help plug what he   thinks is a gaping hole in the artistic education of East   Palo Alto youth – the lack of music instruction in their   public schools.  If Sweeney has his way, East Palo Alto   youngsters will soon have access to guitars that they can   check out from the East Palo Alto Library and use for an   eight-week period.

In pursuing his idea, Sweeney applied for a $5,000 grant from the California State Library Fund to make the dream of having a collection of guitars in the library a reality. If the East Palo Alto Library receives the grant for the proposed music program, then the youngsters using the guitars would also get group music lessons from both paid and volunteer musical instructors, which he hopes the program will attract.

Sweeney surveyed about 75 kids who frequent the East Palo Alto Library to determine whether they wanted acoustical or electric guitars and they chose the electric ones. So, the guitars will come with speakers and the appropriate connective equipment. Sweeney said that he preferred the acoustical ones, himself, since they are simpler. In working with the budget he established, Sweeney figures that the guitars will cost approximately $250 each. He is hopeful that some or all of this cost will be be donated.

A few months ago, Sweeney was one of 32 librarians selected to participate in the Eureka! Leadership Program, a weeklong seminar, that is designed to encourage and support innovative ideas in libraries. It was in this program that he resurrected his guitar idea, which he had thought of in a previous library job he had held.

In his blog, Sweeney says, “Libraries Will Save the World (if we let them),” and he characterizes music as a positive creative outlet for youth, which can offer alternative activities that can prevent them from getting involved with the criminal justice system.

Sweeney acknowledges that the community of East Palo Alto is diverse and incorporates ethnic groups such as Pacific Islanders, African Americans and Latinos, all of whom have cultures with a rich musical tradition. In his job at the library, he is familiar with young musicians who are already at work playing both popular compositions and the music of their particular ethnic group.

Sweeney thinks that having an opportunity for musical instruction and the access to an instrument will be a boon for those children who are interested in music, especially for those children who come from families that do not have the resources to expose them to musical training.

He also supports the work of researchers whose studies show how music plays a strong part in developing a child’s thinking abilities, since music theory, for example, correlates with technical subjects such as mathematics.

Sweeney  should soon hear whether the library will receive the grant. But being the optimist that he is, he writes in his blog, “While I don’t have the grant approved yet, I am very excited about even the possibility of having a funding source for this collection. If, in the end my grant is not awarded to me, I at least have the foundation for writing more grants! No matter what happens with the grant, I’m pretty sure I can get this off the ground in a number of ways.”

To see Patrick Sweeney’s blog and read more about his plan to bring guitars to East Palo Alto children, go to  http://pcsweeney.com/ and scroll down the page to his November 23, 2010 blog entry.

To read this article on the EPA Today Facebook page, click here.

To contact Nozipo Wobogo, email her at nwobogo@epatoday.org



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