Anibal Valentin describes himself as “not very musically inclined at all.”
After a fellow military veteran at Montgomery County Community College suggested he take a guitar class there, though, he did and fell in love with it, he said.
“Strumming guitar was therapeutic,” Valentin said. “It’s sort of a distraction at times when you need it.”
“For me, music has always played a part in my life,” Bittner said.
He said he taught himself to play guitar.
“This means a lot to me. Music is therapy for me, and over the last couple years, I unfortunately had to sell all my guitars and I haven’t had anything to play in quite a few years, so this means a lot to me,” Bittner said.
The guitars were made for the statewide Governor’s STEM Competition, said tech ed teacher Matt Peitzman, who teaches a guitar building class and who co-advised the team with Deb Cotner-Davis, the district’s supervisor of science and STEM education for grades six through 12.
“The challenge was to help Pennsylvanians, so they chose to research how music therapy and playing a guitar has a positive effect on veterans suffering from PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder],” Peitzman said.
The team members were ninth-graders Julian Arteaga and Sophia Goodson, 10th-grader Ella Slater and 12th-graders Zach Detweiler and Patrick Gannon.
“They used native Pennsylvania woods and Pennsylvania companies to make the guitars,” Peitzman said.
The students put in a total of 263.26 hours of after-school time in preparing for first the regional contest, then the state one, according to information at the presentation.
“Besides building the guitars, they also needed to do a presentation, a 20-minute presentation as well,” Cotner-Davis said.
After winning the regional contest, the team was the People’s Choice Award and Most Original Idea winner at the state level.
“We had a lot of wonderful compliments about the project and what the students had done,” Cotner-Davis said.
Not having won the top state prize isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Valentin said.
“I think failure’s a great tool. We love to be optimistic and to see the good in everything, but pessimism can be a friend if used sparingly and wisely,” he said.
Tripping and falling can lead to more resiliency if the person gets back up and back in the fight, he said.
“You all may not have gotten the grand prize,” he said, “but you’re precious in our hearts.”
“This is going to be with us for the rest of our lives,” Bittner said.
“What you guys did so selflessly,” he said, “it means a lot.”