Guitarz for Kids strikes a chord with budding musicians

A man living in New Glasgow, N.S., is giving unwanted instruments new life by fixing them up and gifting them to kids.

Frank Hagar, who runs Guitarz for Kids, says it’s important for young people to have a way to express themselves creatively.

“It kind of helps kids find an identity,” he said. “Growing up, I met all my friends through music … it helped me find my way in life, you know what I mean?”

Hagar, a 30-year-old electrician, began playing at the age of 10 on an acoustic guitar that was gifted to him by a family friend.

That kicked off a lifelong passion for music. He began learning how to refurbish and modify guitars and amplifiers in his teens, and would regularly fix up guitars as a hobby.

More than 70 guitars have been given away since Guitarz for Kids started last year. (Facebook/Guitarz for Kids)

Guitarz for Kids only began last year, but it’s already somewhat of a Canada-wide operation. Hagar started the program in Ontario, where he’s from originally, but he has since lived in B.C. and recently moved to Nova Scotia and is focusing his efforts there.

That being said, there are volunteers in Vancouver and Ontario who help connect guitars with kids in need.

“A lot of people are willing to lend a hand,” he said.

The charity has rehomed more than 70 guitars so far.

This girl in Lunenburg, N.S., got a guitar from Guitarz for Kids for her sixth birthday. (Submitted by Frank Hagar)

Hagar usually finds donations by putting an advertisement on buy-and-sell groups asking for unwanted instruments — “Because how many houses have an old guitar kicking around?” — and fixing them up in his home.

“If the guitar is too mangled, I piece together guitars from other pieces of guitars, so all the donations go eventually into the guitar,” he said.

Those interested in getting a guitar can contact him through his website. Hagar said he prioritizes kids from low-income families or who are in situations where they can’t afford one on their own — especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“People have been saying, ‘Hey, I lost my job,’ you know?” he said.

“Especially with Christmas coming up, I’m kinda trying to do a push … to get some instruments for kids whose parents might not be in a financial situation where they can afford it.”

Hagar started playing guitar after one was gifted to him when he was 10 years old. (Submitted by Frank Hagar)

The guitars aren’t just for individuals. Hagar said Guitarz for Kids has donated instruments to high schools, youth centres, LGBTQ centres, after-school programs and rehabilitation centres.

“Anyone who needs an instrument in their life, if it helps them along, I’m always for landing an instrument in their hands,” he said.

Hagar’s favourite story is about helping a young musician up North who lost his guitars in a house fire.

One of Hagar’s former guitar mentors, who is now living in the Northwest Territories, reached out to him to tell him about the fire. Even though Hagar was far away, he decided to put an ad on Kijiji to see if they could find a guitar to ship to the boy.

Hagar ended up hearing from a Nova Scotia man living in N.W.T. who had recently put one of his guitars up for sale.

“He saw the ad, and he totally donated the guitar he was going to sell to the kid. Not just that, he did an electric guitar and an amp,” said Hagar.

“I think that was the coolest story I have so far.”