MANASSAS, Va. — Getting veterans integrated into the community is paramount to helping them rebuild their lives after service. Finding different outlets for creativity promotes self-expression, and learning among others is a great support system. Under the sponsorship of Dominion Energy, George Mason University offers free guitar lessons to veterans and their family members at the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas. The 10-week program helps build skill, confidence, and camaraderie. 

This idea to teach veterans guitar came from Dr. Niyati Dhokai, Program Director for the Veterans and the Arts Initiative at GMU. Dr. Dhokai has spent much of her career working with service members recovering from injuries. She created music programs to incorporate into the rehabilitation programs and saw the healing capabilities firsthand.  

"For a lot of folks, guitar brought back a sense of community and a sense of home," says Dr. Dhokai. "They develop a lasting connection to the arts; which is a joy to see week after week."

Each class is filled with former service members and their families. Members who served in Iraq play alongside children as young as 9 years old and Korean War veterans.  

This unique program aligned perfectly with Dominion Energy's mission. The company routinely donates to organizations that help veterans in different ways. 1 in 5 new hires at Dominion is a service member. This kind of support is crucial to making sure our veterans are cared for after serving our country.

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"Last week I met 2 Vietnam veterans who were just learning to play guitar. It's so exciting to see them and to learn something new," says Don Goff, an army veteran and student of the workshop. Goff has progressed significantly in his guitar ability within just a year and has helped teach other veterans. "It's been a gift."

This article is sponsored by Dominion Energy. For more information on the Dominion Energy Veterans Guitar Workshop Series email hylton@gmu.edu.