From RimRock to Newtown - Swan Song Guitars Makes a Difference

Building a guitar, any guitar, is a labor of love for Nelson Joyce. But this one is different. This one is a gorgeous bass, with turquoise inlay to reflect the Arizona landscape where it was handcrafted. This one began with the understanding of what music can mean to a young kid forced to deal with burdens no child should have to bear.

Newtown, Connecticut, is a long way from Rimrock, Arizona, but Joyce is here in the hope that this bass guitar and the journey into music if offers, will double as a lifesaver.

Nine months after six teachers and 20 of their young students lost their lives at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School, in one of the worst mass shootings in American history, Joyce stands under a tent at the Newtown Arts Festival and presents the bass to Rob Rabinowitz.

“I know what music meant to me when I was a kid. It was just about the only thing that kept me sane,” said Joyce, whose small guitar company is called Swan Song. “And I didn’t have to go through anything like what these kids went through.”

“Guitars are like totems to me, always have been. If this gives one child the chance to lose himself in the music, to realize there is some humanity, that it isn’t all bad, that’s enough. I know that music will heal and this is just my little part.”

The tears are here always in Newtown, tucked behind moments of everyday life, burbling up in any conversation about that day, or how best to carry on. In a small town like this it seems as if everyone you meet lost someone or was close to someone who did.

On this rainy September day, however, the Newtown Arts Festival feels like any other small town autumn gathering, with the scent of grilling sausages sharing the air with music, tables full of crafts, and families walking around enjoying the day despite the weather. But it is more than just a fall Saturday in Newtown. It is another small step in the healing process.

“When people get involved in the arts, in creativity in general, it can be life affirming,” said Rob Rabinowitz, Secretary of the Newtown Cultural Arts Commission. A project called Healing Newtown Through the Arts, has sponsored drawing and weaving classes, brought in bands to play at family outings, and taught music.

“At every event we’ve done you can see it help build the community,” he said. “Everybody is a bit different in where they are in the healing process and the town is incredibly sensitive to that. There are kids here who are still horrified by loud noises and people still having nightmares.”

The idea, he says, is not to forget what happened on that awful day, but to find a way to cope, to heal, to eventually move on.

For now the bass will be displayed on the wall at Healing Newtown Though the Arts, the Swan Song bass next to instruments donated by PRS Guitars, Daisy Rock Guitar, and Epiphone Guitar.

“Not only does this bass look stunning, but I played it and it sounds amazing,” said Rabinowitz. “It will be available to kids to play during workshops with local musicians, classes, and band practice.

Joyce looks forward to the day the bass comes down off the wall and into the hands of some young musician.

“I hope kids play it every day of the week. I hope they wear it out playing it,” he says, smiling at the idea. “Then I’ll make them another one.”

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