Picking up guitar skills at the Perkins

Davis, left, and DeCosta, center, lead students in a lesson at Perkins Community Center. Daniel Sheehan photo

Free lessons available at Talbot center

If a guitarist from Dorchester makes it big as a rock star years from now, it’ll be likely that Perkins Community Center in Codman Square is where he or she took the early steps on the road to success.

Begun over a year ago by two local musicians, Max Davis and Alex DeCosta, the free guitar class that meets once a week at the center offers kids an introduction to the instrument and a basic crash-course curriculum.

Davis, 27, who is from Dorchester, and Decosta, of South Boston, came up with the idea for the class from a desire to get actively involved on a local level. “That was a big thing, you know, just trying to give back to the community we’re from,” said the 27-year-old DeCosta. “Growing up in Southie, a lot of kids did hockey and football and stuff. I did that, too, but music was just the thing that kind of clicked with me…I wanted to create a situation where I could help another kid find music like I did.”

Since the inception of the class, Davis and DeCosta, have identified three stages of progress through the curriculum after which students emerge with, at the least, an invaluable musical foundation on which they can build going forward.

“They come in with no training at all, and about six months later they leave knowing at least a couple songs, the names of the strings, you know, the basics of how to play a guitar,” explained Davis.

He and DeCosta, who play in bands of their own, put on benefit shows to collect money to buy guitars for students who don’t have one.“We usually send them home with guitars, too, so they can practice when they’re not here,” said Davis.

Over the course of an hour, the tutors lead a group of kids ages 8-13 in various rudimentary finger-picking, chord strumming, rhythm, and tempo exercises. A favorite exercise among several students involves practicing the opening chords to Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” an endeavor that mainly introduces them to the fun of dead strumming, or percussively strumming while using your other hand to deaden the strings.
“It exposes them to different genres they might not have heard,” said Davis.

While none of the kids is shredding solos as of yet, both teachers acknowledged that a base of familiarity will help down the road should interest in music resurface in the students’ teen years, as it did for them.

“I think it’s really good that we’re just providing kids with some fundamental knowledge of the guitar and introducing them to basic elements of music,” said DeCosta.

Learning how to play an unfamiliar instrument can be intimidating, but, as Davis put it, having the class in a comfortable, familiar environment “gets a rid of a lot of the scariness of it.”

The guitar class, which is free, meets every week from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Perkins Center. For more information about programming, call 617-635-5146.