HERNANDO COUNTY, FL (WFLA) – When a Hernando County man heard his daughter’s school didn’t have a music program, he started building guitars out of cigar boxes with his own two hands.
“They have given so much to us. My daughter was in the public school system and it was rough with everything she had going,” said Joseph Gregory who build 25 guitars for his daughter Kaitlyn and her classmates.
“I got her into Hope Academy and she came out of her shell. She fit in and everything they done for her that’s the main reason. I just wanted to give back to Hope because they have done so much for my family,” Gregory said while watching the students learn to play his homemade guitars.
Gregory with the help of Nashville recording artist Justin Johnson passed out the guitars and Johnson sat at the head of the class and showed the kids how to play the three-string guitars.
“It means everything to me to see a classroom full of kids playing Joe’s instruments and having fun with them and you can see the next generation is looking good,” Johnson said after an hour of tuning and teaching the kids how to play their own cigar box guitars.
“I love educating and I started out as a performer and I tour all over the world performing music but everywhere I go I want to try to make an impression especially with the next generation and get them playing these types of instruments,” Johnson added.
Hope Ranch Learning Academy is a small private school that doesn’t offer a music program as part of the curriculum but the school’s principal says the 25 Cigar Box Guitars will go a long way toward starting the school’s first music program.
“We were so excited to be able to bless these kids with these instruments. Many of whom have never every touched an instrument before, so this is a huge opportunity for our kids to learn about the guitar and have a guitar of their own and take with them,” said Hope Ranch Learning Academy Principal Ampey Jensen.
The students have been taking guitar lessons all week and on Thursday, they get to perform in front of their parents and friends with Justin Johnson on stage at the school.