The Gift of Music

Mr. Mackie in his shop and surrounded by his strum sticks.
Mr. Mackie in his shop and surrounded by his strum sticks.

I was watching a series of YouTube videos on the making of a simple stringed instrument called a strum stick. It is mainly a form of dulcimer that you strum like a guitar rather than play on your lap.

The videos had been produced by a Scottish immigrant, living in Michigan, named Andrew Mackie. Mr. Mackie spend his life tending to cattle and his spare time in his wood shop. He was also an avid harmonica player and lover of Celtic music.

Heart problems forced him to retire so to fill his days he turned to his wood shop and began making his version of a strum stick. In the mid 1990s his medications were costing him about $600 a month and he felt they weren’t doing him any good. So, he decided to stop taking pills and live out his life doing what he enjoyed, spreading the gospel of music.

He took the money he’d been spending on medicine and began buying harmonicas to be given to the middle school children of his county, along with written instructions on how to play them. Before his death in 2011 Mackie had given away over 20,000 harmonicas.

Also, he began setting up programs in high schools teaching shop students how to build his strum sticks and pass them on down to middle school students where others would teach them how to play. With volunteers he was able to build countless additional strum sticks to give away and sell as fund-raisers.

Mackie and his kids made their way into the Guinness World Book of Records by assembling the largest harmonica band performing in a single location.

I just think this is an amazing story of a loving and caring person who put the future of others before his own. Andrew Mackie made this a better world to live in and set an example we should all learn from.

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