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Aspiring songwriters strum their guitars for inspiration at East Ridge

If you're an aspiring musician with dreams of being a famous guitarist and songwriter, then East Ridge High School's "Guitar and Songwriting Club" is a good place to start.

English teacher Bill Barr, a professional songwriter, said he founded the club because he thinks students should have the opportunity to be exposed to the guitar and songwriting since it can be such a valuable experience.

"I just wanted to get students interested in just learning the guitar, and just get them interested and motivated to start up with that," Barr said. "On one level it's a nice form of self expression for them and I think it can produce good self esteem.

"It's good to learn the guitar on a lot of different levels -- it's good for the soul, it's good for emotions, the heart, it's good for the mind and good for creativity."

Barr said typically he has between 25 and 40 students after school for guitar and songwriting club.

"I think it's so good to just have that time to develop the interest, have some camaraderie with one another and those things in common," Barr said of the club. "We have an open door policy because we want you here, we want you to have a good time and be a part of it."

The club is divided into several areas -- beginners, intermediate, advanced and songwriters -- but students are able to just come and work on what they want.

"It's really just a good chance for all the musicians and songwriters to come together," said advanced student Byeongwook Min. "You can just let your creativity flow."

Min said it's really nice having such a flexible structure to the club since the students in the club have such differing experiences.

Min, along with several other advanced students, said that being a musician and songwriter is a great chance to express themselves and get their feelings out.

The advanced students said they have dabbled in songwriting, and they are trying to improve, and the club is a way to polish their writing skills.

The students said they look to everyday life and musical influences for inspiration for original songs.

Even though the students are separated and doing their own thing, the advanced students said the beginners often look to them for advice.

Additionally, Barr will be organizing open mic nights for his students, hopefully once a month, where students can showcase what they have learned to their peers -- whether that's a new chord, a new cover song, or a new original song.

"We want students to show off their wares and what they have learned," he said. "Right now, we're in our infancy so we're kind of feeling our way through this and seeing what direction it goes."

Guitar and Songwriting Club meets every Tuesday from 3:15-4:30 in Bill Barr's room, 1032, as well as the orchestra room, 1057.

Visit for a video of some of the advanced students in Guitar and Songwriting Club performing.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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