Arizona Arts in Schools

Arizona Arts in Schools has taken its in-class and on-campus programs online, creating at-home learning modules for its four disciplines: Lead Guitar for aspiring guitarists, UpBeat for drummers, Step Up for dance, and a general music program, Music First, for students in kindergarten through second grade.

These programs will all culminate with virtual showcases. The Lead Guitar Virtual Concert on April 25 will include students from around the country, listening to, learning from and playing with guitar heroes: four-time Grammy winner Sergio Vallín from the Latin band, Maná; Grammy-nominated fingerstyle guitarist Alex de Grassi (who played UA Presents in 2019);  and Brazilian classical guitar legend, Sergio Assad.

“Through our sponsors Cordoba Guitars and Guitar Salon International, we’re inviting guitar communities around the world to join in the ensemble,” said Brad Richter, director of outreach for Arizona Arts and founder of Lead Guitar. “We will be playing four songs and have included step-by-step video instruction online.”

The four songs are Ode to Joy (Beethoven), Oye Como Va (Carlos Santana), Redemption Song (Bob Marley), and Minuet in G Minor (Bach). Video submissions are due April 20.

>> Learn how you can play in the concert here.

“At-home learning content has launched for all of our in-school programs,” said Richter. “My favorite example is the UpBeat Found Sound. I love that it solves the issue of access to instruments. This will culminate in a virtual showcase featuring home-made instruments which I think will be very impactful.”

Richter started the Lead Guitar program independently in 1999 while working as a professional musician. Richter brought his 501c3 to the University of Arizona in 2013 and established an ‘in schools’ approach that partnered with a record-number of institutions this year with 83.

>> Arizona Arts in Schools (formerly CFA in Schools)

>> Program brings music and dance education to schools in need

Arizona Arts in Schools is working on a number of fronts to keep the music and dancing alive in their students:

Lead Guitar

  • Lead Guitar is giving away guitars to students without access in Oklahoma, Chicago and Tucson.
  • Creating on-line learning modules tailored to the needs of each co-teacher and their classes. This example (below) by Nick Lenio was created for a class at Basalt Middle School in Colorado. Nick is Lead Guitar Regional Director for Colorado, a certified music teacher and a 2016 GRAMMY Music Educator Award semi-finalist.


  • Homemade/Found Sound percussion instrument project. The UpBeat team created a step-by-step video of instructionsfor building percussion instruments with common house hold items to solve the issue of access to instruments for students at home.
  • On-line learning modules are designed to take students through the UpBeat curriculum using the instruments they have built at home. Watch this example. It’s worth knowing before viewing that the UpBeat system uses animal words to help teach rhythmic concepts as you will hear the instructor chanting them as he plays.
  • A state-wide Virtual Showcase will bring together UpBeat students from Tucson and Phoenix to play their found sound instruments in a mass digital ensemble similar to the Lead Guitar concept above.
  • For students with no internet access, UpBeat is providing a print version of these materials in Spanish and English and will deliver them to schools as requested.

Music First / Step Up

  • The Music First team is creating at-home family sing-a-long videos that encourage movement and broad participation and Step Up has a well-developed library of online instruction videos. A community sing-along and Dance Showcase are both in development and online learning modules are available. (Step Up sample below)