Billy Strings Donates 208 Guitars, and So Much More

Billy Strings set the world on fire with the release of his recent album Renewal, which debuted #1 in physical sales in country, and his popularity is swelling amid sold out shows across the United States. For those that pontificate on such things, Billy Strings is considered one of the best musicians in this generation. But on Monday morning, November 8th, he proved it’s not all going to his head. Instead, he’s refusing to forget where he came from, and is taking of his time and money to give back.

At about 10 a.m., Billy Strings pulled into the parking lot of the Twin Rivers Elementary School in Muir, Michigan in his tour bus, followed by a U-Haul truck. In the U-Haul were no less than 208 acoustic guitars of various age appropriate sizes—one for each student at the school. And these weren’t cheap, throwaway guitars either, but Fender models for the older ages, and 3-string Loog guitars for the youngest students. According to the school’s principal Paul Frost, it was a total surprise to both staff and students.

When Billy Strings was a bit younger and went by the name William Apostol, he attended Twin Rivers Elementary. The music teacher for the school, Mrs. Mercer, still works there, and was in attendance as each grade class came out one by one, and were presented with the guitars by Billy.

“I went to this school when I was your age. I started playing guitar, and the guitar has always been a really cool friend of mine,” Billy Strings told the students. “Even when times were really sad, a guitar was my friend. So I wanted to give you guys some guitars that you can take home with you. Everybody gets one.”

As can be seen in the video below, the students were sincerely surprised, and super excited the be receiving the guitars. The Grammy-winning bluegrass maestro also returned to his elementary alma mater in 2015 for a performance when he was coming up. But now that he’s found such overwhelming success, his visit to the elementary school holds an even more meaningful weight.

“He sat in the seats my students are sitting in right now,” Principal Frost told the Sentinel Standard. “He’s gone on to have the kind of success he’s had. I think it opens up the possibility for the students here (to think), ‘If I work hard toward my dreams, I can achieve those dreams.’ For him to come back, remember us, talk about how important this school was to him when he was a kid, how important the guitar was and give something like that to every one of the kids here is such a meaningful and generous gesture. It was a beautiful thing … Having a superstar artist remembering his roots and giving back to his hometown is a really cool thing.” 

And it’s probably worth underscoring that the students of Twin Rivers Elementary didn’t just receive a guitar. They received a guitar from Billy Strings—one of the greatest living guitar players. Those 208 guitars will have a story attached to them forever that will only grow in stature as the prestige behind the 29-year-old does. And like Billy Strings said, he wasn’t just giving them an instrument. He was giving them a friend. He was giving them a tool to build confidence. He was giving them the gift of music. And perhaps for some of the students, he might be giving them a career.

“The guitar has taken me places that I could only dream of,” Billy Strings said afterwards. “My hope is that one of these guitars does the same thing for one of these kids. I look forward to coming back and seeing how these future musicians progress for years to come.”

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