HENRICO COUNTY, Va. — One lesson Skipwith Elementary School music teacher Sophie Harrison loves to teach is how to play the ukulele.
"We do recorders in the fourth grade, and then for the fifth graders," Harrison said. “I think it's a great kind of transition to be able to play songs that are more popular with them."
But when Harrison wanted to change the tune and add ukuleles to the musical lineup, she ran into an issue.
The problem was that some students at home didn't have access to a ukulele, and others couldn't afford to buy one.
"Because it is a shared resource with HCPS, they weren't able to have their own at home," said Harrison. So she took matters into her own hands. "I just did a bunch of fundraisers to buy 85 ukuleles for each student."
Harrison used the website DonorsChoose.com to raise money from community members, friends and family, and other music teachers to purchase the ukuleles.
Word got out and more donations poured in. Skipwith Elementary chipped in with even more money. Eventually, there was enough to buy 85 ukuleles.
"It’s incredible,” Chris Moseley, Education Specialist for Performing Arts, said. “You know, a lot of people ask for things and they expect handouts. But when you put in a little bit of extra energy and get support from your community and get your school involved, then we're not making excuses. We're finding ways to get the appropriate results."
Seeing that spark of interest in a young musician's eye is something Moseley knows well. He saw it in Harrison a long time ago.
"When she was an elementary school student, I was her band teacher,” said Moseley. “We had about 85 kids in the elementary school band, and she was one of the first students that I ever taught."
"Starting trumpet in his band class, it was definitely, it felt like that first time where you're really feeling like you have your music love and you're starting that journey.” reflected Harrison.
Maybe it is a ukulele that will hit the right cord and start another student's journey. And they have one, thanks to Harrison.
Building interest in music -- and building better minds.
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This story was first published by Rob Cardwell at WTVR.