Brewers honor UWM Guitars for Vets pioneer

Jada Reynolds and Chris Horsley are veterans that were part of a UWM beginning guitar class. (Photos by Troye Fox)

Bev Belfer, the driving force behind a beginner’s guitar class at UW-Milwaukee that is open to all military veterans, will be honored by the Milwaukee Brewers on June 19 as the Community Achiever for the month.

Belfer, senior lecturer in UW-Milwaukee’s Peck School of the Arts Music Department, will be recognized on the field during the pregame ceremony and will receive a certificate for her services along with a bag filled with Brewers memorabilia. She also will throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the 7:10 p.m. game against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Belfer’s guitar class is offered through a partnership between the nonprofit organization Guitars for Vets (G4V) and the Peck School of the Arts. Veterans who attend six classes receive their own guitar, gig bag, tuner and method book from G4V.

Josh Lane and Bev Belfer work together in a beginning guitar class.

Belfer recently became a volunteer board member and national education director for G4V. Locally founded and based in Milwaukee, the nonprofit organization now has 25 chapters in 15 states, with 67 chapters pending, says Belfer.

“The vets who take the class appreciate being part of our community,” says Belfer. She also describes how the regularly enrolled students in the guitar class applaud the vets when they are introduced.

Her observations tell her that there are other benefits for the veterans. “For example, I’ve noticed how some of the vets need to sit right in front of the door. As we progress through the semester, they move into the center of the group.”

Josh Lane, a senior majoring in finger-style guitar, has been assisting Belfer in the class and tutoring vets free of charge. He considers it a privilege to be involved in teaching guitar, something he “enjoys enormously,” to some “very noble people.”

The class will be offered again during the fall semester. With “guest status,” vets do not receive class credit and must be certified through UWM’s Military Education Benefits Office (MEBO), located in Mellencamp Hall, room 168A, 414-229-6392.

Belfer has been at UWM for 29 years and estimates she has taught more than 18,000 students. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Milwaukee-Downer College, her MS in Music Education from UWM and her PhD in Education from International University for Graduate Studies. Belfer has also taught at UW-Parkside and Concordia University Wisconsin, as well as other programs at UWM.

G4V was founded in Milwaukee in 2007. According to its website, the G4V mission is to enhance “the lives of ailing and injured military veterans by providing them with guitars and music instruction. Through self-expression and the healing power of music, it is our intent to restore the feelings of joy and purpose that can be lost after suffering trauma.”

Vets do not have to experience medical or psychological problems to participate in the UWM program.