SMC You don’t have to be an expert in particle physics to get behind Marlene Hutchinson’s string theory.

She believes anyone can — and should — learn how to play guitar in a day, and she’s returning to town to help area residents do just that.

In a 5-hour workshop March 28 at Santa Monica College, Hutchinson will aim to provide beginners with essential skills and give them a working foundation in the popular instrument.

“You’re not going to be Eric Clapton when you leave the workshop — that’s not possible,” she said, referring to the legendary guitarist. “But there’s a realistic expectation that you can play several chords, several songs, in several different ways, different styles. In the first few minutes, I say, ‘Let’s be realistic.’ But it is very possible to retain what I teach during the workshop. And I have a good understanding of what it’s like to learn as an adult.”

That’s because Hutchinson, who lives in Laguna Hills, was an adult when she picked up the guitar. She started playing 12 years ago, following through on a New Year’s resolution by joining a group class.

“I could not stop playing,” she said. “It was awesome.”

Hutchinson incorporated her new skills into her work as an elementary school teacher and also began bringing her guitar to church.

“About a year in people said, ‘You picked it up fast. Would you show me how to play?'” she said. “That wasn’t my mission, but it grew from there. And when I started doing private lessons, I had a lot of adults say, ‘I want to learn, but I don’t have time for a weekly lesson.'”

The feedback led Hutchinson to develop a one-day guitar seminar, which she launched in 2009. She now travels around the country, offering the workshops about 20 times each year.

Hutchinson first reached out to the local community college at the suggestion of a business coach who recommended utilizing the networks of established educational institutions to build her brand. She has taught occasionally at SMC over the last five years.

The course is being offered through SMC’s community education program, which hosts short-term, not-for-credit classes in a wide variety of fields.

Hutchinson’s class, which will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., is designed for busy adults who feel they don’t have time for regular lessons.

She’ll cover basic chords as well as strumming, picking and tuning techniques. She also teaches attendees how to play familiar songs and how to take care of their instruments.

Hutchinson starts out by teaching “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and slowly incorporates additional chords throughout the session. Her workshop also introduces to participants musical time and tablature.

“They come in like deer in headlights,” she said. “But I expect that — that’s what I’m assuming. I’ll get you there. I take it from a very basic level and just build all day. It’s pretty cool to watch these people who attend the workshop evolve. They’re looking at me like, ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this.’

“It’s an intense day, but it’s fun and everyone loves it.”

The class costs $79 with an additional $30 fee for materials, including a book and an electronic tuner. Attendees are asked to bring their own acoustic guitars.

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Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, or on Twitter.

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