Teacher builds one-handed flute for student with disabilities

Ballwin, Mo. -It's just 8:30 a.m., but 6th grade band class is music to the ears of Kevin Smith.

"My passion is showing kids how to play instruments and getting them started," Smith said.

Smith has been the band director at Selvidge Middle School for two decades.

And he's a favorite of students like 12-year-old Melissa Henricks.

"He's helped me a lot, "she said.

Melissa is learning to play the flute. Or more accurately, re-learning it.

At five foot two, Melissa may be small but she has overcome some big challenges.

Born with something called Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension, she spent the first days of her life on a heart-lung machine. Bleeding on her brain resulted in a form of cerebral palsy.

Still, she never let it stop her or her dreams. And one of those dreams was to play the flute.

"I've always liked the sound of it and I thought music was always cool, "Melissa said.

But the flute is a two-handed instrument and Melissa has difficulty using her left hand.

Still, there's was no way Mr. Smith was going to let that stop the music.

"We realized something was going to have to be done to the flute if she was going to have success, "Smith said.

Mr. Smith's wife Tracy has her own instrument repair shop. So together, they looked into the possibility of building Melissa a custom-made one-handed flute.

They found a man in Texas who would build it if they could find the $3,000 to pay for it. It was time to band together with the Rockwood School District.

"If someone is that determined we want to help that passion, "said Kelly Mignerone, assistant principal at Selvidge.

And a short time later, the one-handed flute arrived.

Mr. Smith then spent some of his winter break constructing a new fingering chart for Melissa to learn her new instrument.

A band director who loves music is good thing. A teacher who loves his students is an even better thing.

"It's amazing how wonderful he could be to make this for me, "Melissa said.

A one-man band of dedication helping kids hit all the right notes.


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