Success Stories – Greeley Central High School

Students posing with their progress on their hand-made Marimba!

The Success Foundation had the pleasure of visiting one of our grant recipients last week. Mr. Doug Farr, at Greeley Central High School, received a 21st century grant to build a marimba from scratch. This project is teaching students about physics, finding resonance, carpentry, math, and much more. It is being put together by a group of volunteer students after school, and is a HUGE project.

This project is more than just measuring slabs of wood and PVC pipe that will be used for the keys and resonaters. Each key must be beveled in the middle, which is how the instrument will be tuned. The keys will have holes drilled through the sides in order for them to be suspended. They also have to be individually tested to see where the best resonance will be before they start drilling and beveling.

Teacher, Doug Farr, demonstrating how they test each key for resonance

To do this, they have created a box in which they place each key, suspending it on a rubber band. They then put salt on the key, and hit it with a percussion mallet. The salt will go to the sides with the least amount of vibration, and that’s how they know where to start the beveling to pitch the key.

Students measuring PVC pipe that will act as resonaters underneath the Marimba keys

There is a very particular order everything has to be done in. There is no possible way to figure out what size the base will need to be, since there is no control over where the wood naturally resonates. They have to finish cutting and testing all of the keys, and will eventually line them all up against the wall to see where they can be cut to create a smooth line. After that, they will build the base and suspend the keys and resonaters, and add a coat of fresh paint to the PVC pipe. Easy, right?…

Mr. Farr has always wanted to build a Marimba, and was able to purchase an instruction manual and materials with the grant they received. Not only has this inspired students to use knowledge from their other core subjects, and apply it in the music classroom, but it has inspired others to work on building their own instruments as well. Way to go, Mr. Farr!

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