If necessity is the mother of invention then dreams are the step parents of reinvention (or something like that).
Back in the ’60s when Barbara Klein (aka BK) was in grade school, her dream was to become a Beatle. So one day, her mom surprised her with a guitar and signed her up for lessons. But despite BK’s best efforts, she never got the call from any one of the four lads, not even Ringo.
Still she continued to play, arriving at college in the mid-’70s with her brand new Yamaha in hand. After graduation, however, the guitar was relegated to the back of the closet with a few textbooks and a few too many disco albums
Life went on, Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da. Then on March 4, 2005, everything changed. “That was the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer,” BK says.
“To help me get through the surgery, radiation and chemo, some friends chipped in and bought me a Fender Stratocaster. It was amazing. There was something truly therapeutic about playing that guitar really, really loud.”
With the treatment behind her, BK decided to keep moving forward with music, so she scheduled lessons at Pittsburgh Guitars. “I just wanted to know that for at least one hour every two weeks I would have an opportunity to play,” she says.
One Woman’s Mid-Life
(it’s not a crisis)
Quest to Find Her Voice
So far, STRUM IT FORWARD
has funded 8 FREE hours
of guitar lessons
for area kids participating in
Pittsburgh Guitars' owner John Bechtold with BK.
Fast forward to 2012 when BK once again found herself confronting a difficult situation. Laid off from her long-standing gig as the creative director of a Pittsburgh-based public relations agency, she turned to her Martin acoustic for solace and found something unexpected.
“I never wrote a song in my life,” she says. “In fact, I never aspired to write songs. I thought it was just a fluke, but something changed after I lost my job. I guess I had stories I wanted to tell.”
She started sharing those songs/stories with her friends at Pittsburgh Guitars and even with strangers at coffee houses around town. Now she has a new dream—to record a CD.
“I’m so grateful that my mom brought home that first guitar,” BK says. “And even though I don’t remember exactly what happened to it, the feeling it gave me—that anything was possible—I’ll always remember that.
To help more kids experience that same feeling, BK launched STRUM IT FORWARD.
“Fifteen percent of every dollar I raise will go directly to Strum Together, Pittsburgh Guitars’ scholarship program that enables area kids to learn how to play the guitar,” she says.
Strum Together was founded three years ago by the South Side store’s owner John Bechtold.
“I realized that when budgets get tight,” he says, “school music programs are the first to get cut. I wanted to find a way to keep music in kids’ lives. Eventually, we also want to be able to provide them with guitars, lesson books and other accessories.”
Since its debut, Strum Together has helped 20 aspiring musicians from nearby schools take lessons—for free—at Pittsburgh Guitars.
“There are a lot of dreams at stake here,” BK says.