Moments – Obstacle Turned into Opportunity

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Sequin, Texas 2011 – In the fall of 2011 I was teaching four subjects in a Texas middle school. The one I enjoyed the most also offered unique challenges. That class was 6th grade fine arts; which encompassed visual art, drama and music.  I was so excited to teach that class because I love those subjects; the job was made for me.  My feet barely touched the ground, until reality set in.  It turns out that there were many obstacles in my way.  One of those obstacles was that I had nearly no supplies.   I was left agonizing over how to teach music without instruments.  I had no trouble teaching visual art and theater arts, using minimal art supplies.  For music I knew I wanted to have the students make their own instruments, but I was at a loss as to just how I would do this.  I wanted to build instruments that would be fun, unique and offer interesting challenges for this age group.

The answer came to me unexpectedly over Thanksgiving break.  I liked to relax on Sundays with a wonderful weekly TV show called “Texas Country Reporter” with Bob Phillips.  That day Phillips was interviewing a colorful gentleman who built cigar box guitars.  I had never heard of cigar box guitars before, and leaned closer to the TV, entranced by every word.  I had found my solution!  I spent the following weeks educating myself on cigar box guitar construction.  I built one and shared it with my students, who absolutely loved it.  The added bonus was that it offered a teaching opportunity to explore the instrument’s link to American history.

Unexpectedly, cigar box guitar building took on a life of its own.  After I left teaching, I continued to build guitars and sell them.  Some are even owned by performing musicians.  Ultimately, though, it helped to motivate me to pursue my dreams of creating art; both in a visual and a musical form.  I have gone on to reconnect with my creative side, long held dormant. I am growing as a musician and as an artist and crafts person.  I don’t know what is in store for me next on this journey, but it has helped me to meet some wonderful people, develop my creative potential and bring music back into my life.

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Cynthia playing an original song titled “Just Trippin” one of her cigar box guitars, which was made from an Oliveros box – sanded, stained and steampunked.

Here’s the cigar box ukulele that Cynthia created especially for me with a maritime theme. More about Dinan cigar box creations at Cigar Box Nation and on Facebook.

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Moments Contributor – Cynthia Dinan from  Sequim, Washington. She has worked as an educator, a luthier and now designs and builds custom cigar box guitars and ukuleles.