Helping veterans heal through music.
The Elite Academy of Music and Motion's second veterans' guitar class officially graduated after nine weeks of free lessons.
Six veterans completed the course, though only four were able to attend the final class, where Director Damian Bonazzoli suprised them with a graduation ceremony complete with special medals, cake and friends and family. Bonazzoli, who was part of the Army reserves, decided to start offering the class to help fellow veterans heal through music.
This graduating class presented challenges, as the participating veterans were not all beginners. Some already had knowledge of the basics of guitar playing, and others were starting from scratch. However, Bonazzoli was fortunate to have some of his own students come in each Saturday and help teach.
That meant a lot to him. It was an example of the sense of community and belonging he's worked to cultivate at the academy.
"I always say, I want people when they walk through the doors here to feel welcome — to feel comfortable," Bonazzoli said. "To feel like, 'yeah, this is where I want to be.'"
Seeing people come out and celebrate the musical achievement of the graduating veterans and appreciate the students who made the medals for them is an example of the culture of the academy.
"It's awesome that this kind of thing is supported," Bonazzoli said. "It's been nice."