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Jay Dortzbach, Deseret News
Fourth-grade students at South Jordan Elementary School learn how to play the guitar during a recent class, January 2011.

SOUTH JORDAN — Students at South Jordan Elementary School played their first "gig" Monday, and it was a smash.

The students learned to play the guitar through a program that's teaching kids about music and its potential payoffs if they stick with it.

Months of guitar classes had prepared the fourth-graders for performing the tunes of "Ba Ba Black Sheep," "She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain" and "Do You Know the Muffin Man?" in front their classmates.

Some of the students had never even picked up a guitar or any other instrument, but they shook off the nerves in time for the recital.

"It was a lot of pressure, and it was fun," said Gage Johnson.

"It's fun and I get to learn more about music," Kylee Davis said.

Gage and Kylee are just two of the students who learned how to play the guitar. It all started when teacher Dave Buer had the idea to bring music into his class.

He went to the school and to the Jordan School District to get help with funding and was able to purchase six guitars for his students. Money for the guitar program came from the district music fund, a part of the budget set aside to bring music and fine arts into the classroom.

Buer taught his students a few basic chords and a couple of easy songs.

"I'm really proud of what the kids accomplished," Buer said. "The guitar is difficult. You gotta learn chords, switch between chords. They really worked hard, they got calluses on their fingers."

The class showed off its hard work in front of the entire fourth grade. When the performance was over, the students got a private concert by guitarist Kenji Aihara and his band. Kenji has played in several jazz concerts and festivals all over the country. He's opened for The Roots and several other Grammy Award-winning musicians.

"We want these kids to be able to see what they can become if they continue to put hard work and effort into guitar, or anything," Buer said.

The hard work could pay off. Aihara says the beginner guitarists show some real promise.

"Those kids can play pretty good, I was impressed," he said. "I was really happy to see them actually playing their instruments really well."

e-mail: aforester@desnews.com