Guitar’s in Recovery

As part of Military Appreciation month I thought I would post a little more about the Guitar program we do for the VA Medical Center. I asked JP for a quote and one of his students sent this letter. I thought it was worth publishing in it’s entirety to give you a scope of what our veteran’s experience and the benefits of this program.

We are grateful for our veteran’s and active military for their service and sacrifice, and so grateful for the opportunity to give back to them in some way and to bring the healing power of music to as many as we can!

Letter from one of the veterans currently in the VA Guitar program:

“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to express myself and my gratitude towards the “Guitar’s in Recovery” program at the Spokane VA Behavioral Health Center.  I would also very much like to express my gratitude towards Mr. Shields, JP as we like to call him.

My involvement with JP came a few years after I had been going to the VA Behavioral Health Center.  I am a veteran that sustained an injury while on active duty.  The injury stayed with me after I was discharged, and subsequently I would have my career interrupted with surgery.  Recovery usually took about 8 months and then I would have to start over looking for work.  I repeated this 4 times.  I felt like I was stuck in this cycle of pain in which I would eventually have to have another surgery and start my career over again.  Between the 3rd and 4th surgery I started to come undone mentally.  It is not easy to explain, and I am not sure if in general people are aware of these sorts of situations.

At the VA hospital I found out that my story is not that uncommon.  Eventually, I lost my ability to work and provide for my family and I was in a lot of physical pain.  In this process, I became severely depressed and suicidal and developed severe anxiety.  I had lost my identity and I saw no future, and I blamed my situation on myself.  A couple of times I asked for help and it did not come.  I gave up and I almost killed myself.  That is a stark reality for me.  It humbled me at my core.

One day my wife brought me to the VA hospital and a social worker asked the right questions and I was admitted to the psychiatric ward on the 3rd floor.  We call it the “3rd floor.”  There is a group of us that have been through the 3rd floor and that is how we like to refer to it between ourselves.  It is a place I never wanted to go to, but never wanted to leave once I had been there for a time.  I was actually afraid to leave.

While inpatient, I entered group therapy in the Finding Solution Group (originally called the Suicide Prevention group, later to be called the Suicide Risk Management Group and finally being called the Finding Solutions Group.) In this group, we explored what it takes to get healthy and what getting healthy means.  It was a chance to talk about anything that burdened us and to listen to others.  It was a work in progress type situation.  People would sometimes explore experiences outside the group and then report back their experiences.  It was during one of these times that I learned about the guitar lessons provided by JP from Holy Names Music Center and organized by Pam Wick (VA recreational therapist).  I knew that to care for myself I needed to get involved in something.  I saw this as an opportunity. I had no expectations, and I can’t say I had much desire to play a guitar… I just knew that I needed to try to do something.  I needed to find or make new parts to myself because I felt so much of my identity had been lost or stripped away.

My guitar lessons with JP (Guitar’s in Recovery) is part of the silver lining in my dark cloud.  I went through a terrible storm and I found a new side of myself in learning to play a guitar and in the social interactions with others while learning to play.  It has become a little part of a new identity and it has shown me how to heal.  I realize the process of healing and discovery is slow, and sometimes taken in little steps.  In this case, it has been little steps with a guitar and my instructor JP and my classmates.  Learning to play the guitar has been difficult for me, but I was not there to necessarily learn to play the guitar.  I was there for the acceptance and the process and the need for something positive. 

I can now say, “I can play a guitar.”  I’m not a great guitar player but, I am me, and I love my guitar, and I love the process of learning to play and the people that come to Guitar’s in Recovery.  It is a great feeling to feel, and I feel so fortunate to be able to partake in the program.

Thank you so much!


May 9th 2018″

If you are interested in supporting our mission programs like the Guitar’s in Recovery program for veterans, please consider donating by clicking here:


Holy Names Music Center’s mission is “to provide high quality instruction and performance opportunities for all!”

Post by: Elisabeth Burrell

Explore Music Week 2018


Each year in March Holy Names Music Center invites people in our community to the center for a fun event to learn more about our programs and what we have to offer. This year we held a week long after school instrument petting zoo, a musical craft, offered Music Together demonstrations, and had sign-ups for all ages to try a free introductory music lesson in voice or the instrument of their choice.

Did you know Holy Names Music Center has teachers for all of these instruments?

instruments.jpgIt was a super fun week and we enjoyed sharing our passion for music with everyone who came!EMW photos blog4Look out for next year’s Explore Music Week at Holy Names Music Center, or come by and visit us sometime!

March is Music Education Month.






How Amanda Nguyen grew from breaking violins to breaking through.

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18 month old Amanda with elder brother Alex’s old half size violin

When Amanda Nguyen was two years old, she wanted to be just like her brother. Amanda’s mother Kim Nguyen recalls her toddling around the house, Alex’s old half sized violin in tow. “She broke everything on that violin! She wanted to play so bad!” Kim purchased a violin for Amanda when she was 3 years old, and the search for an instructor began. Kim called Holy Names Music Center, and was paired with violin instructor Mariana Dimitrova, who started Amanda out using the Suzuki method, and now she is breaking through! 


Amanda Nguyen performing at KPBX From The Studio

In May 2017, she earned gold medals at MusicFest Northwest, and was featured on KPBX’s From The Studio. Most recently, Amanda’s application was among the 35% selected to compete in the Classics Alive Young Artist Competition held at Pepperdine University. “I thought it was kind of a pretty good idea, so I just decided to try it out myself.”  

Dimitrova believes Amanda’s focus is what makes her exceptional.

“She is very interested in the artistic repertoire, but unusually for a child the technical etudes and scales are interesting to her; how things work. She grasps right away, she is very focused, I think this makes the difference between kids who succeed and who struggle: focus.”


Mariana Dimitrova, (violin instructor) Amanda Nguyen, and Kim Nguyen (Amanda’s mother)

This brought Amanda success in other activities as well. She is also an accomplished pianist, a member of the Math is Cool team at All Saints Catholic School, a black belt in Tae Kwan Do, and winner of the Junior Golf Championship. This July, Amanda beat the odds (67 million to 1, to be exact) of making two holes-in-one within the span of three days!

golf amanda

Amanda on the Avondale Golf Course in Hayden Photo Credit: Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review. Read about Amanda’s golf adventures here!

It (music) helps her concentration, her thinking. She is sharp for golf. Golf is hard, and so is violin, and she picked up both easily. Golf, violin, and piano require accuracy. Music helps her to calm down when she is upset, and focus under pressure, and move on from mistakes. It also helps her in math and school work.” Kim Nguyen.  

Regardless of what the future holds for Amanda, Kim is grateful for Amanda’s experiences.

I wanted her to have this experience. She can have a career in music if she wants when she’s older, but now it is just a stepping stone to her future. Music she can carry with her the rest of her life, even if she doesn’t choose it as a career.”  

Holy Names Music Center is grateful for the opportunity to nurture a life-long passion for the arts by giving voice to the spirits of our students. Enroll today to start your break through!


Amanda Nguyen at Holy Names Music Center where she takes violin lessons.

 Author: Clara Mannino