It was Disney's Hannah Montana who first inspired a 6-year-old Julianna Glick to want to play guitar, her mother says.
Now the 9-year-old rocker is into Taylor Swift, says mom, Sue Glick, as she and her daughter wait in the lobby of the before the girl's weekly group guitar lesson earlier this week.
"Most kids that want to play guitar want to play what they hear on the radio," says Glick.
Julianna's teacher is a Milford resident named Darla Lupica, who has been teaching beginner and advanced courses -- mostly for children -- at Sterling House for the last four years.
"She understands kids need to be kids," says Glick. "The teaching isn't too rigorous which is important because parents can worry how their kids will be treated when they're not sitting there."
"She doesn't care if we mess up," says Julianna. "She just cares that we play."
On Tuesday night, about 10 kids attended a beginner class.
Darla -- that's what the kids call her -- starts each session by tuning everybody's guitar. While she's busy setting the strings, some students munch on chips or fruit snacks, which Darla brings to every lesson. Others socialize with their neighbors.
Soon the small wood-paneled room is full of guitar sound. The first song of the night is one of Julianna's favorites -- "Teardrops On My Guitar" by Taylor Swift.
"If you're not going to play, you got to sing," says Darla. And with that all the students begin strumming. One student is struggling to keep up with the chord progression. To the other students, Darla says, "He hasn't been here that long, give him a break."
"I get the satisfaction I know I'm making musicians," says Darla, who has compiled a memory of 4,000 songs since she started playing guitar as a 9-year-old girl. "We could have another American Idol star in here."
The guitar teacher says most of the kids who come to her lessons are from Stratford. Most weeks she has about 30 students, she says. Before teaching, Darla was the one-girl band under the name The Electric Woman -- that was in the 80s. Outside of teaching, Darla plays at area hotels, restaurants and other establishments.
"Music for kids is so important; it could be a release of stress," says Julianna's mother. "It takes a concerted effort to learn an instrument and I think it carries over to other things."
"I find that most students do better in school after coming here," says Darla.
Classes are $100 for 10 and are offered year-round. For more information, email Darla at firstname.lastname@example.org.