n Success story Instruments of Change SACRAMENTO GUITAR SOCIETY ORCHESTRA ENCOURAGES ONE YOUNG MUSICIAN TO GIVE BACK TO HIS COMMUNITY 30 CAPITAL REGION CARES 2017 | comstocksmag.com BY Willie Clark PHOTOS: Kelly Barr or one local teenager, all it took was six strings to rope together funds for charity. Those six strings are on Alex Bonilla’s guitar. Bonilla — 15, and a sophomore at Jesuit High School — has been playing in the Sacramento Guitar Society Orchestra for roughly five years, after his guitar teacher suggested he gain group-per- formance experience. The Sacramento Guitar Society Orchestra is one of several programs run by the Sacramento Guitar Soci- ety, a nonprofit that’s been around for more than 50 years. Among these programs, the Society also hosts con- certs, offers scholarships for guitar camps and facilitates guitar dona- tions for various music programs. The orchestra itself has been around since 2011 and is currently conduct- ed by Sean O’Connor, who says the group provides an outlet for commu- nity members to be engaged in music. “I think it’s important because people often participate in music only in a passive way,” O’Connor says. “In other words, they might go to concerts occasionally and just go and listen … this gives people who are not neces- sarily full-time musicians the oppor- tunity to actually, actively participate in music, to create music.” Bonilla says his young age was never a problem, either. He’s one of only two teenagers in the group. “They were completely OK with it and just said ‘Come on in, play guitar with us,’” he says. But Bonilla isn’t merely a player in the orchestra, he’s also using his guitar skills to give back. Bonilla began playing his own shows three years ago, then in seventh grade, apart from his performances with the orchestra. He’s played guitar at Sacramento locales like Peet’s Cof- fee & Tea and the Crocker Art Muse- um, raising money for the Sacramen- to Guitar Society.