Chorley's life-changing and 'beautiful' Project 20 Guitars proving that it's never too late to learn
Enthusiasm and passion radiates from Andrew Kesiak when he speaks about Project 20 Guitars because of one simple fact: music is a powerful thing.
A non-profit initiative started by Andrew almost three years ago, Project 20 Guitars started life as a single 20-person ensemble of novice guitarists who had always wanted to learn how to play the instrument but who, for various reasons, had never been offered the chance to do so.
Initially intended to be a 12-month programme after which Andrew would start the process again with another group so as to offer the opportunity to embrace and enjoy music as possible, there was just one problem with that plan: people loved Project 20 Guitars too much to quit after a year.
"When it came to ending, the whole group expressed their desire to continue," says Andrew, 49. "They said they couldn't imagine life without Project 20 Guitars, so we decided to carry on and that original group which I started in 2019 is still together to this day. But I also felt like I had to offer the opportunity to others, though. So I started a new group in 2020 as well.
"It's been a real journey of discovery for me," adds Andrew, 49. "The most beautiful thing in life is where you give people the chance to play an instrument because it's not just about playing the guitar, it's about something more. That's what's made me happy and I've been so satisfied by the project because we've created something as a group. We've become friends."
A resident of Buckshaw Village, Andrew has himself been a musician all his life. A firm believer in the power of music to uplift people and act as crucial therapy due to its ability to unite one and all regardless of age or background, Andrew also runs music therapy classes for the elderly and is a member of the Hallé Choir in Manchester.
He's also been thrilled to see the positive impact Project 20 Guitars has had on people, particularly during lockdown, when the group were forced to carry out their weekly sessions online as opposed to meeting at Leyland Methodist Church as they now do once again. Empowering people to enact a positive influence over their own lives, the group has been a vital outlet.
"While Zoom classes weren't the same because we couldn't play together due to delays, if we'd just given up, it would've been a great loss," explains Andrew, who was born in Poland and has lived in the UK for 16 years. "So we kept going and we continued to learn, which was important for people at a time when people couldn't leave their houses.
"It gave people that sense of normality and belonging," he adds. "Playing guitar is therapeutic in its nature and playing as a team with collective goals was so important during lockdown and mental health was very much on the agenda. But it's amazing to be back - it's a huge relief to once again share that collective energy which was missing before."
Embodying the mantra of 'it's never too late to learn', the group has also spawned some seriously talented guitarists, too.
"While there are countless positive by-products of the group, the core objective is to learn how to play guitar and, in terms of the music itself, something extraordinary happens every time we meet because people realise the potential and musical talent they have," says Andrew. "Those skills are being awakened and that's amazing, because we're changing lives.
"When I started the project, it was only an idea," he adds. "Now, I can honestly say it's worked, which makes me even more enthusiastic. And I'm very much looking forward to forming a new group for people affected by the impact of the pandemic, so if you're interested and are over the age of 40, please get in touch.
"Lockdown has hit people hard, so I want to do my bit."
If you are interested in joining Andrew's new Project 20 Guitars group, email him at [email protected]