Maggie Ramos and Damian Bonazzoli, director of the Elite Academy of Music and Motion, play chords on their guitars together. Photo by Jarleene Almenas

Ormond Beach music academy offering free guitar class for veterans

Healing through music.
Jun. 25, 2018

The Elite Academy of Music and Motion is hoping to help local veterans deal with anxieties, stress and PTSD by offering free guitar classes every Saturday for the next eight weeks. 

Each class will last about one hour and will start at 12:30 p.m. Damian Bonazzoli, director of the Elite Academy of Music and Motion, will walk all participating veterans through the very basics of learning how to play. Guitars are available free of charge as well for any veteran in the class who needs one.

This is the second time Bonazzoli, who was part of the Army Reserves, has decided to hold this class. Bonazzoli said that for veterans, who have sacrificed a lot and may be dealing with different issues, learning how to play music can be a step toward healing. 

“I’m a real, real believer in what music really can do for people — for children, for adults, for retirees, for veterans, for just everybody," Bonazzoli said. "Because everybody in their life deals with different things.”

Maggie Ramos was one of the veterans in the academy's first class last fall. She found out about the class through a Team Red, White and Blue post on Facebook. Having just moved from Colorado to Florida to be closer to family, she decided to give it a try to get more integrated in the area. 

For Ramos, it was the positive music experience she never had as a child. She said Bonazzoli never singled them out if they made a mistake and that he was both patient and not afraid to challenge them in their music endeavor. 

Though the class officially began on Saturday, June 23, new students are still welcome. Bonazzoli hopes to continue the same sense of camaraderie cultivated with his first group of students.

“We just kind of all have that same frame of reference, in a weird way," Bonazzoli said. "It’s like we get the same jokes, the same references.”

Though she was a little intimidated the first time she walked into the academy, being the only female veteran in the class, Ramos said that feeling quickly changed as the male veterans took her in and made it fun for her. 

“I never had to share with the guys exactly what I went through," Ramos said. "None of us asked for details. We just kind of understood.”

Ramos was a medic in the Army. Throughout her six years in active duty, she had a few traumatic experiences. Before moving to Florida, she was about to enter into a 12-week PTSD program. 

Now, she's working for Veterans Affairs and re-entering graduate school to become a nurse practitioner. 

“I credit that — teaching the music, feeling confident, feeling like I can connect with other people again was part of the healing experience for me," Ramos said.