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Warren County teacher brings 90 ukuleles to the rescue when students can’t sing

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Posted at 6:03 PM, Dec 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-31 22:22:31-05

SPRINGBORO, Ohio — When the pandemic silenced her students’ voices, a Springboro choir teacher found another way to make music.

Larissa McIntosh has been a music teacher for more than 25 years, the last four as the choir and strings instructor at Springboro Intermediate School, reports the Journal-News.

When the coronavirus pandemic curtailed singing for the year, McIntosh needed to keep her 242 sixth-grade choir students engaged.

She decided ukuleles, a fun way to learn the same skills and concepts, were the answer — but she needed nearly $5,000.

McIntosh grew up surrounded by music. Her father was music director and her mother the organist at Grace Baptist Church in Middletown.

“It’s kind of a family business. It’s just something we did,” she said. “A lot of people sit and watch football. We did music.”

Using DonorsChoose, a fundraising tool for public school classroom projects, McIntosh set up a donation page. With low expectations, she asked her students' parents to share it.

“I thought, okay, I’m going to try this, but it’s probably not going to work, or it will take six months to get the money.”

In just five days she had enough donations to buy ukuleles for the middle-schoolers.

“I’m still absolutely floored. I just cannot even express how touched I was and grateful to this community,” she said. “I’ve never had parents come together like that and buy instruments."

McIntosh said the average donation was $25, with anonymous contributions coming in from North Carolina and Hawaii.

She purchased 60 ukuleles and the school system bought 30 more, allowing remote learners to play at home.

“We are in an unprecedented time in the pandemic right now and music is a therapy we know can be a balm on some of these kids’ souls,” she said.

McIntosh’s students have missed the joy of singing during choir class but are excited to learn to play the new musical instruments.

“Singing makes me feel better and some songs help me get through hard times,” said Mason Allen, a sixth-grade student at Springboro Intermediate.

Making music on the new ukuleles, he said, would “make people feel better about the pandemic and not feel so sad.”

McInstosh said she has seen the character-building influence music has on her students.

“They come in here not knowing these songs and they see the value of practicing,” she said. “That’s a big lesson that isn’t just about music, it’s about life in general. When you work hard, the final product can be very wonderful.”

The Journal-News is a media partner of WCPO 9 News.