Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A fundraiser with strings attached

Handmade guitars for rights museum

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Wayne Davies and his students have an extremely simple goal -- changing the world, one guitar at a time.

I know this because I met the music-loving principal of Selkirk Junior High School last week when I tagged along on a guided tour inside the Canadian Museum for Human Rights at The Forks.

As we stumbled around the architectural icon in our steel-toed boots, hard hats and protective eyewear, the easygoing and extremely tall educator kindly clued me in on a hard-rocking program he launched at the Grades 7 to 9 school in 2009.

Dubbed the BOSS (Building on Student Success) Guitar Works, it involves students volunteering their time to build custom-made electric guitars, getting the instruments signed by a galaxy of stars, then auctioning them off to raise cash for the rights museum.

There are a couple of ways you can get your musical mitts on these one-of-a-kind guitars -- signed by everyone from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Alice Cooper to Al Gore and Bill Clinton -- but first I want to give Wayne a chance to tell you how it all got started.

It seems the 46-year-old principal -- who now runs the junior high he attended as a kid -- was inspired by Canadian rock icons Rush, who donated $100,000 to the rights museum a few years back.

"They're a Canadian band that got together in junior high," Wayne pointed out. "They're huge stars but they still have time to stop and think about how important human rights are.

"I thought it would be cool to try and do our small part as a junior high. So I called some kids together and said, 'Let's build three guitars and give the museum $1,000.' It snowballed quickly and we ended up with 55 signed guitars and donating $32,579 to the museum in 2011.

"We've built about 180 guitars so far and we're hoping to approach what Rush did and give the museum $100,000 by the end of the program."

There are about 16 kids currently crafting the handmade guitars -- fully functioning instruments -- under the expert guidance of teachers Kris Hancock and Scott Sampson.

"It takes a lot of work," Wayne gushed as we ogled the museum's interior. "The kids have put in 1,500 volunteer hours since September. They shape the bodies, laminate the wood, they've learned how to string them -- everything from start to finish. We don't do it during class; it's all before school, after school and lunch hours."

Wayne's eyes literally light up as he runs through a few of the stars who have signed the guitars, including Rush, Sidney Crosby, Randy Bachman, Jack Nicklaus, Slash, Pearl Jam, Bon Jovi and Rick Mercer, to name a handful.

"I was driving around listening to 92 CITI FM the other day and I heard six songs in a row by bands that have signed our guitars," he said, beaming. "I just started to laugh."

What you need to know is there are two ways for you, the rock-loving reader, to make one of these awesome "axes" your own. First, more than 30 of the signed guitars will be up for grabs during an online auction that runs May 16 to 28. They're on display at, where a link to the auction site will be posted soon.

Another crop of guitars will go on the block live on May 30 at a gala event at the Selkirk Recreation Centre hosted by my buddy, Big Daddy Tazz, one of Canada's hottest comedians. Tickets range from $29.92 to $100 and you can get them by calling Wayne at 204-785-8514 or visiting the website.

Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the CMHR's fundraising arm, is also holding weekly Guess who Signed the Guitar contests until May 30. Visit or Twitter @cmhrfriends for a chance to win an awesome prize.

So drop what you're doing and get ready to bid on some cool guitars, because this is probably the first charity event where it's a good thing that you'll find strings attached.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 22, 2013 A2

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