Wendall Cook has been playing guitar for more than 60 years. It began when he was growing up, listening to Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Cook started playing and singing with the help from his father, and it began with three chords on the guitar.
Now Cook has a class of his own. He has been giving group guitar lessons every Friday at 9 a.m. for more than 11 years. His group has grown from a small jam session of three people to four classes of more than 60 students ranging from beginner to advanced.
“We started from three people and they kept inviting people in—by the end of the year we had seven or eight,” Cook said. “I never have been a professional teacher, but I like to share.”
Cook’s passion for teaching can be seen just by sitting in on one class. His love for the music and the students are unparalleled. We spoke with a couple of Cook’s students about why they got started and how the group lessons have grown.
“I ran into him one day and he said ‘I’m teaching free lessons at the senior center, come on down’, so I did and I’ve been coming for five years,” Jack Copeland said.
“Wendall taught us how to play and sing, and for the last six years we’ve had a group called the Golden Eagles,” Charlie Oar. “We sing and play guitar in nursing homes around the area.”
Copeland and Oar have known Cook for many years. They both say his love of music hooks people into the class and his patience makes them stay.
“He spends all of his time teaching others, and it’s snowballed,” Oar said.
Linda McGhee, manager of the Oak Ridge Senior Center, said Cook’s class not only affects the center but the community as a whole.
“He has been here (Senior Center) for over 11 years helping people love music,” McGhee said. “His classes have had a very big impact on our community.”
“I have a good time, and most of the students enjoy it and they keep coming back,” Cook said.
These free classes run every Friday starting at 9 a.m. from January through the first week of October.
For more information about how you can get involved with these classes, please call (865) 425-3999.
Savanna Schubert is a freelance contributor to Oak Ridge Today.
See a video about the guitar lessons by Schubert here.
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