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Guitar students learn from band

Mike Murtha plays bass guitar and sings while members of his beginning guitar class play along. Murtha teaches the guitar class for St. Croix Central Community Education.1 / 3
Abby Ponath (left) and Leah Tritz play a song with the rest of the guitar class. The class played several songs with Joe Murtha and Karl Ausland, visiting members of the band Trigger Happy.2 / 3
Mike Murtha helps Wayne Milller figure out some difficult chords.3 / 3

On Tuesday Oct. 30, a group of guitarists gathered in a room at St. Croix Central Middle School and played and sang music ranging from "Amazing Grace" and "You Are My Sunshine" to a typical 1950s chord progression. Four members of the group didn't know how to play a guitar when the class began.

Mike Murtha's community education "Beginning Guitar" class was filled with adults. For the class' last lesson, Murtha, a member of the band "Trigger Happy," invited his brother Joe Murtha and Karl Ausland, both fellow Trigger Happy members, to play with his students.

"Joe suggested it," Murtha said. "He said 'Maybe we should come in and do a little jam.' I said 'That's a great idea.'"

Murtha's students said they had a great time getting to play with the Trigger Happy members.

Murtha's class is a beginning guitar class, so he said he tries to keep things simple but keep things fun for students. The class played many familiars songs such as "Amazing Grace."

What Murtha teaches are "simple" chords, or those that use only a few fingers, closer together. The more fingers and the farther the fingers are spread apart, the harder the chord, Murtha said.

"To change chords within time is probably the hardest thing to do," Murtha said. He covers switching from one chord to the next in time to the beat of the song being played in his class.

Murtha said the beginning guitar class is just a way to get people started, though some students come back because they're not ready for more advanced instruction yet, or because they're happy with the level they're at.

Murtha said the next step for people who have taken his class, if they want to go on in guitar, is to find a more advanced instructor.

Usually, Murtha said, his classes contain at least one child, but this time his class was all adults.

One of those adult students, Wayne Miller, said learning to play guitar was on his bucket list.

"I'm never going to get any younger," Miller said. "This is something new. I always wanted to do it."

Miller played horn in high school, and said while he wanted to play more music; he wasn't interested in playing horn again.

"When I play horn, I can't sing along," Miller explained. "So this is something new. I always wanted to do it. It's kind of quiet. It isn't annoying to practice like the horn."

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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