May 16, 2022

Charlie Doodle

Unique Art & Entertainment

Laporte students build dulcimers as part of artist-in-residence program – Bemidji Pioneer

2 min read

LAPORTE — Laporte Elementary School students built one-stringed dulcimer instruments and performed at a recent assembly as part of the school’s artist in residence program featuring Minneapolis instrument builder Ross Sutter.

As part of a Region 2 Arts Council grant, Sutter spent a week at the school aiding grades 3-5 in building 80 dulcimers as well as a second instrument, a mouth bow.

The students built the dulcimers from scratch while Sutter taught brief lessons surrounding the science of pitch and sound.

The frets on the fingerboard were stapled with the help of high school students and the soundbox was made from a specially designed sheet of cardboard made in Minnesota specifically for the project.

The students folded the cardboard into a box and glued their fingerboard on top to create the dulcimer, the ancient versions of which were single-stringed.

Laporte student Alija Hart glues his fingerboard onto the soundbox while constructing his dulcimer.


“The miracle sound was on the third day,” grant writer and fourth-grade teacher Steve Booth said in a release. “With the help of Mrs. Komolainen’s Spanish students and Mr. Townsdin’s shop students, every student had built a one-stringed dulcimer from the ground up. Mr. Sutter tuned them and then the music began.”

Sutter went on to teach them versions of “Hot Cross Buns,” “Smoke on the Water” and a Swedish children’s song, “Rida Rida Ranka.”


Laporte student Jon Hunter plays his newly-constructed dulcimer.


During a Friday assembly, grades K-2 sang the Swedish tune while the third-through-fifth graders played on their new creations as a culmination of the week’s activities.

“The best part about the dulcimer project was building it and learning how to play it,” fourth-grader Peyton Hadrava said in the release. “At the concert, it was fun to hear what the other kids practiced.”

Sutter appreciated the opportunity to return to Laporte School as a resident artist.

“I always like coming back to Laporte School,” he said at the assembly. “I first came here 25 years ago and it’s always a warm and supportive place to return to.”


Laporte students gather for an assembly to play their newly-constructed dulcimers and sing.


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