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Chit Chat: ‘Guitar Chief’ helping supply instruments to children

ST. CHARLES – Jerry Gendron of St. Charles remembers when he picked up a guitar as a kid – he had to overcome strings that were too high on the neck for his smaller hands, as well as play through bloody blisters on his fingers.

“I know that’s enough to discourage younger players who don’t have what it takes to overcome that difficulty,” he said.

So, he decided to start restoring guitars to make them easier for younger musicians to play. Through his eBay website, and Facebook page, titled “Guitar Chief,” Gendron has been selling and marketing restored guitars that are more affordable for families with children who want a guitar that’s manageable for younger musicians to play.

“I clean them up, buff them, polish them, put new strings on them, straighten the neck,” he said. “Every one of them is different. I put them in a condition that, for less money than a brand new one, the guitar [is] going to play better than a brand new one.”

Gendron, who by day is a financial advisor in Geneva, said he uses the funds from his restored guitar and string instrument sales to purchase other instruments to restore or donate to music programs in the Geneva, Batavia and St. Charles school districts.

Gendron said he’s contacted 80 band, jazz band, orchestra and choir teachers in Tri-Cities school districts in hopes of working with them in the future to coordinate instrument donations or to offer more affordable instruments to children whose families may not have the budget to buy or rent them brand new.

The idea to restore instruments came when his daughter started playing violin. He said instead of spending hundreds of dollars to purchase a new violin, he purchased one for $50 that he was able to restore.

He said in some cases, it costs a family $300 to $400 just to rent a violin each year. He plans to donate 15 restored violins to Anderson Elementary School and Lincoln Elementary School in St. Charles.

“I’m set up to donate instruments where there’s a need,” he said.

Gendron said in addition to restoring and donating string instruments, he acts as an adviser for families who have never purchased a musical instrument before and may need some guidance in learning what to buy. He said most families will need to spend at least a few hundred dollars for a guitar that’s playable for younger musicians without any adjustments.

“There’s gotta be a lot of musicians, or potential musicians, that could really blossom if they could overcome the instrument they’re playing on,” he said. “Unfortunately, so many of these instruments are blown out of the factory without any quality control.”

Gendron said both his love of music and working as a mentor through his alma mater, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, inspired the move to restore, sell and donate used instruments. He said especially with the recession, many families might struggle to afford instruments.

“Music has brought so much joy in my life,” he said. “What a shame for somebody not to have that same experience.”

On the Web

Guitars and other instruments restored by St. Charles resident Jerry Gendron can be purchased on his eBay page at

Gendron makes instruments more playable for younger musicians and more affordable for families whose children might be interested in learning to play. Proceeds also go toward donating instruments to Tri-Cities school districts.

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