On July 12, Meadowdale High School senior Nathan Battern will be holding a collection day at the high school for students in the MHS guitar class who do not own or can’t afford guitars. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Battern and fellow members of Edmonds Boy Scout Troop 312 will be accepting acoustic guitars, guitar supplies and cash donations in front of Meadowdale’s music wing.
The effort is all part of Nathan’s effort to become an Eagle Scout, which requires scouts who already hold the Life Scout ranking have to serve in a leadership position in a troop for six months, earn the required merit badges from first aid to citizenship in the community, and complete a project for a nonprofit that leaves “a lasting mark.” The project is a good fit for Nathan, a percussionist in Meadowdale’s Wind Ensemble and member of the Drumline, who moved to Washington from Nebraska two years ago.
“My requirement for my sons, since I have four boys who are all Scouts, is they have to do an Eagle project they are passionate about,” said Nathan’s mother, Lisa Battern. “Nathan had kicked around [the idea of] doing an Eagle Scout instrument drive because he is in the band, but he never saw that there was a need for that. Seeing that the guitar class had no guitars [created] a definite need. So he waited a little while to find the perfect project.’
The lack of provided guitars in Meadowdale’s guitar class has affected the class choices of some students, Nathan noted. “I have talked to a couple of freshman [and I asked,] ‘So, what classes are you going to take next year?’ [and they responded,] ‘Well, I was going to take a guitar class, but, you know, I don’t have a guitar.’”
As a result, Jeff Horenstein, the Meadowdale choir director and guitar class teacher, was looking for students to take on the responsibility of collecting guitars as a senior project at the end of last year. However, after a new state law made senior projects in Washington optional for all future seniors, Horenstein needed a new source of students to lead his project.
“Once I got here, I was watching other people earn their Eagles and I was looking at their projects… they were helping fish hatcheries, they were cleaning trails… pretty standard stuff,” Nathan said. “But then I was looking at the school and how I could help, because Meadowdale’s a very nice school. When Mr. Horenstein approached [the idea], that was the time I [knew], ‘OK, this is what I want to do.’”
However, Nathan has a deeper connection to high school guitar classes than just this project. “My oldest brother [Joey] has always been kind of a role model to me,” Nathan explained. “I’ve always look up to him, and back in Germany [where the family lived before Nebraska], in his first year of high school, he got into guitar because of the school. The school was able to provide him with a guitar to practice on, and he even started a guitar club.”
Nathan explained that when the family moved to Nebraska, Joey took up cello because an orchestra teacher had told him it was the closest thing to guitar. He then earned a musical education degree after five years at the University of Nebraska Omaha, and is currently pursuing his career in musical education.
“None of my kids probably would have been in music if it wasn’t for Joey going into that guitar class in high school,” Lisa Battern said. “That’s what [helped me see] how important music is and how much talent my kids have…. That wouldn’t have happened if his high school didn’t have guitars… we would not have been able to get him a guitar.”
As Nathan attributes his own love of music to his brother’s guitar class, the project has been a great way for the Battern family to come full circle. Nathan has already collected four guitars for the class, two of which were from Craigslist donations, while Larry Squire, a retired Edmonds School District music teacher, donated the other two. Though Battern hesitates to set a numerical goal, there are 32 slots for students in the guitar class, which means — ideally — the project goal is 28 more guitars.
If you’re interested in donating a guitar, but can’t make it to Meadowdale High School on July 12, Battern can be contacted on the project’s Facebook Page or at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a pick-up. Cash donations are also accepted, and will go directly to buying guitars and other supplies needed for students in the class.
Meadowdale High School is located at 6002 168th St. S.W. in Lynnwood.
— Story and photo by Caitlin Plummer