Lead Guitar at Aspen Music Festival


Lead Guitar establishes permanent classical guitar classes in public schools with low access to the arts. Our master instructors use our field-tested curriculum to teach students to play and to train teachers to teach classical guitar. This co-teaching method between a Lead Guitar instructor and a school's Teacher-of-Record  ensures not only the short-term quality, but the long-term sustainability, of the program.


It’s a fact. Students who participate in school music programs have better attendance, make better grades, and are more likely to attend college and have more lucrative careers than students who do not participate in school music programs.


Using music and an instrument to which young people relate well, Lead Guitar students learn technique, music reading, theory, performance skills and ensemble playing. They develop their self-discipline, self-esteem and ability to work as a team - attributes that help them realize success throughout their lives.


By developing a program that mirrors the curricular integrity of the best band and orchestra programs, but appeals to students not traditionally drawn to those programs, Lead Guitar offers all of the benefits of a high quality instrumental music education to thousands of students who would otherwise not receive them.


Lead Guitar's story begins on the Navajo Reservation and in Page, Arizona in 1999.

Lead Guitar in Page Arizona

Page High School Lead Guitar student Sherwin Shepard plays with medicine man Dale Tsosie on a Lead Guitar retreat.

Though Lead Guitar was officially founded as a nonprofit in 2007, co-founder Brad Richter began developing and teaching the curriculum that would become the core of the program in 1999. While on a concert tour in the four corners area, Brad was asked to visit Page High School to give a guitar workshop. There he met students who were both immensely talented and highly at-risk. He was so inspired by the efforts of those students to teach themselves classical guitar that he began writing a curriculum to help the school's choir teacher guide them through the basics of note-reading and technique. Each subsequent year he spent more time at Page High School to expand the curriculum, adding student concerts, guitar retreats on Lake Powell, and scholarship opportunities for the most serious guitar students.


Word of the success of the guitar program in Page, as well as its positive effect on grades and attendance, began to spread to other Arizona communities and by 2005 Brad had established similar guitar programs in Bullhead City, Tucson, and Sedona. Lead Guitar's co-founder, Marc Sandroff, heard about the program when he moved from Chicago to Tucson and saw great potential in Lead Guitar. A venture capitalist and enthusiastic philanthropist, Marc credited much of his career success to his lifelong study of guitar. He wanted to help offer the opportunity to study music to some of the most underserved students in the country. In 2006, Brad and Marc established a 501c3, gathered a motivated and experienced board of directors, and began offering the program to schools throughout the Southwest.


By 2012, Lead Guitar was serving 20 schools in five states and had taught thousands of students to play classical guitar. A conversation began between Marc, Brad, and Chuck Tennes, then-Executive Director of UA Presents, the performing arts presenter for the University of Arizona. In August 2013, Lead Guitar became affiliated with the University of Arizona and three new CFA in Schools programs, a family of in-school performing arts programs, were developed on the Lead Guitar model. Today, Lead Guitar has over 50 programs in four states.