Meet Guitars Over Guns (GOGO), an organization that works with students in Miami and Chicago to promote positive interactions through music and art.
Chad Bernstein, the founder and CEO of GOGO, was inspired when he was helping a friend connect with young people at a juvenile detention hall. “We had [issues] trying to talk to these kids… Once we started playing music for them, it was a completely different story,” he says.
Bernstein says he values “the opportunity to let a student know how important their voice is and share the things that they feel and the things they want to see changed in that community.” By providing this outlet, GOGO gives students in underserved areas of Miami and Chicago the chance to express feelings through art, in a protected environment away from their everyday stresses.
“The experience was really great… it helped me find one of my biggest passions so I’m really grateful for that,” says Jimena Gayosso, a recent student of the program. “It’s a very loving community and they accept you for who you are. It’s just a good way to be yourself around other people who love to do the same thing that you do.”
Derek Henderson, a mentor for GOGO in Chicago, explains that helping at-risk kids is challenging, but rewarding. “It puts you in a position to help kids who don’t really have music programs in their school and you get to relate to them, not from a teacher standpoint, but from a mentor standpoint so you get a different perspective.”
“The unsung heroes in all of this are the mentors. They’re the ones that are going and working with these students, and it’s difficult work,” adds Bernstein.
Each year, the students in Guitars Over Guns record a song and produce a music video. Sadly, the cousin of one student in Miami passed away after a gun-related accident, so the GOGO group decided to focus their end-of-year performance on telling the story of surviving family members through the song “See You Again” by Wiz Kalifa.
“When it came time to do our end-of-the-year music video and recording project, we thought about ways we could take a tragic event and use it as an opportunity to create awareness and try and dial-in a way that we could affect the rate of this happening in our community,” says Bernstein. Check out the moving result below.
Watch: Guitars over Guns perform “See You Again”