There is a lot to love about the 402. I love seeing some of Omaha’s best and brightest artists intersect, collaborate, and give back to the community. I love having an Aroma’s coffee shop in our building. Most of all, I love getting to help students learn a skill that they will enjoy for the rest of their lives. It is so rewarding to see someone play a song and recognize the melody their own hands are making.

Usually, this happens in isolation - one instructor, one student. That is how Mia and Maddie started last spring. These two girls started lessons at almost the same time, and we scheduled their lessons back to back. It was fun to see Mia and Maddie learn at roughly the same pace, and I often felt like a broken record, assigning similar lessons and practicing similar songs as they both progressed. It was especially enjoyable because both girls were motivated and ACTUALLY PRACTICED!

During the summer, both girls were approaching the end of their lesson book (Guitar Method for Kids, Hal Leonard). The final lesson song in the book is “I’m a Believer” - you know, the one from Shrek. They loved it and played it well, so when we started talking about the fall recital, both girls naturally wanted to play the same song. I proposed an idea: what if they played the song together?

We began overlapping their lessons. Instead of 30 minutes each, I met with Mia for 15, both for 30, and Maddie for 15. That gave each of them an opportunity to work on their solos for the recital, and we took the time together work on their duet. It was really cool to see them interact and to see their guard come down over the weeks leading up to the recital.

For me, this is what music is all about. We don’t learn art in isolation, to use our newfound skill in isolation.

The true joy of any art form is sharing it, collaborating with it, enjoying it together. The 402 is more than a bunch of rooms where skills are transferred from teacher to student. It is a collective of artists, some masters, some beginners, all taking part in the joy of artistic beauty. I am thankful for the opportunity to contribute my small part to the collective and to experience this artistic journey with each of my students.

Written by Artist Instructor Cody Villarreal about his experience as an instructor at the 402 Arts Collective.