Editor’s note: Kasper Hansen is the founder of Let’s Play, a program that uses YouTube to teach schoolchildren in the Philippines how to play the guitar.
The Philippines is a place where I always feel surrounded by music. Someone is always singing, humming or playing an instrument, no matter where you are. What I noticed pretty early on, though, was that younger generations seem more inclined to pick up a video game console than an instrument.
Having seen the positive influence of musical exposure in my own kids, I wondered what I could do to impart that same love of music to more children — especially those who couldn’t afford to take classes or buy instruments. So in 2017, I spoke to the principal of a local high school just north of Manila. I visited the school with ten guitars purchased out of pocket, my old laptop and an ambition to bring music into these childrens’ lives.
From there, the Let’s Play program was born. We gave 20 students these guitars, a refurbished laptop with an internet connection so they could access video tutorials, and time to explore on their own. YouTube tutorials provided a virtual music teacher for the makeshift class. Whether it was learning how to form simple chords or understanding strumming patterns, the treasure trove of easy-to-follow content on YouTube made it possible for the students to learn at their own pace.
And two months later, the students were able to play songs completely on their own — and so many kids were interested in learning that we didn’t have enough guitars for them all. They would come to school early to practice before class or leave school late so they could hang out and play with their friends.
Kasper with some of the children in Let's Play
I started expanding this program, and now we’re in 63 schools all over the Philippines. All the instruments are sourced from local guitar makers, and we have some truly incredible teachers who are committed to supporting and running the program.
YouTube has been hugely useful for guitar tutorials to teach the kids how to play. There are some great teachers on YouTube — like Justin Guitar (Justin Sandercoe), for example. He is really supportive of Let’s Play and has given us permission to use his videos.
Teachers have mentioned that some of the kids in the program are now performing better in school. They're more interested in classes, studying and are more excited to come into school to learn new things. I’ve heard parents say that since their children have joined Let's Play, they want to play music at home as well. Some say that they even now prefer playing music to playing video games.
Some of the schools are in very remote rural areas with less access to resources
In many communities, the kids have become locally famous. We visited a rural school on the west coast of Cebu, where there are 50 students who play beautiful music together. And these kids have played for the mayor several times, they've been to the city hall and they’ve played in the sports complex. They’ve become the pride and joy of the local community, inspiring other schools to participate in Let’s Play, too.
It’s my dream that we can continue to spread Let’s Play across the country until every school is able to give any child who wants access to music the ability to learn.