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Blues benefit provides guitars, lessons to youths in detention

Several blues musicians will unite in the name of hope for youths who have found themselves on the wrong side of the law.

Guitarist Cody Jasper was one of those youths. But something positive came out of his stint at a youth detention center in Amarillo: He learned to play guitar. Now he is spokesman for the Freedom in Music Project, which provides guitars and lessons to youth detention centers and men’s and women’s recovery academies to give people at the facilities a positive outlet.

“He is very up-and-coming,” Freedom in Music Project co-founder Linda Oliveira said of Jasper. “He’s phenomenal. He was like the perfect person to have because he’s a success story, all from learning to play guitar in youth detention. And they didn’t have a program at the time. He was just a wild child and out of control. He is 28 now. He is the nicest person you’ll ever meet. He is very sensitive. He’s got a beautiful heart, and he has a phenomenal voice. He writes music. He’s an unbelievable guitar player.”

Jasper will be joining several other blues artists on Saturday, Aug. 4, for the Blues, Brews & Bikes Festival at the Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership. Saturday’s musical lineup will feature Jesse Kramer, the High Desert Blues Band, Texas Deuce, Eric McFadden, and the Chace Walker Band. A big jam session will wrap up the event. Eventgoers also will receive a free raffle ticket for a Fender Squier Strat signed by some of the artists. Guests can purchase additional raffle tickets to improve their chances.

Tonight, headliner Justin Johnson will perform as well as Rex Peoples & X Factr. Johnson also will headline on Saturday night and host a workshop earlier in the day at 5 p.m.

Proceeds from the festival benefit the Freedom in Music Project. Founders Linda Oliveira and her husband, Phil Oliveira, and other volunteers visit 14 detention centers and recovery academies in New Mexico and two in Amarillo. The program depends on donations and benefits such as Blues, Brews & Bikes to obtain guitars and supplies.

“What we bring to them is acoustic guitars. Along with the guitars go strings, tuners, extra batteries, cleaning cloths, picks, everything they need in order to play,” Linda Oliveira said. “We also give them a curriculum book for each guitar, and we also give them a learning DVD in case the teacher wants to use that too. And the curriculum book is everything you need, how to make all the different chords. There’s songs in there for them, and usually the teachers will add on what they need to more pages or whatever. It’s a pretty intensive book that has everything they need, including the history of guitar, how to maintain and take care of the guitar.”