New lyres handcrafted by students, teachers, and community members have been gifted to Hartsbrook.

Last spring, at our annual final assembly, new lyres handcrafted by students, teachers, and community members were gifted to the school for use in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd-grade music classes.

This spring, storage boxes for these lyres, handcrafted by the 9th-grade class and with the guidance of Ms. Payne, were gifted to the school in an intimate ceremony including the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 9th-grade classes.

An Introduction to Lyres

The pentatonic lyre, also known as a kinderharp or pentatonic harp, is an ideal therapeutic musical instrument for children of any age.

Its gentle, soothing, and ringing tones, coupled with the ethereal qualities of the pentatonic scale, inspire higher abilities of grace and reverence and wrap the children in a peaceful, dream-like state. The pentatonic scale is generous in that it allows for immediately successful playing and improvising.

Students in grades one, two, and three experience these gorgeous stringed instruments as a part of their overall instrumental curriculum at Hartsbrook, alongside a series of hand-carved wooden flutes and uniquely resonant tone bars. Experiencing the pentatonic lyre in a variety of ways in the early grades prepares the students beautifully to take up bowed orchestral instruments in grade four.

Inspiration for the Lyre Project

Upon arriving to Hartsbrook in the summer of 2019, Melanie Whitney noticed that the school did not yet have a class set of lyres. Knowing that pentatonic lyres usually cost between $200-$500 a piece, she consulted with practical arts teacher, Katharine Payne, to share her vision of having Hartsbrook students make the lyres as a service project to the school.

Her immediate willingness and enthusiasm soon spread to many, and the project was set in motion. In the spring of 2022, the lyres were ready to be handed over at a dedication ceremony at Hartsbrook’s annual final assembly. Here, the lyres were given to the first through 3rd-grade students by those whose hands had guided the crafting process and in honor of all who had contributed along the way.

Building the Lyres

Woodworking expertise is abundant at Hartsbrook, as well as a generous group of students ready to take on any endeavor.

After realizing the abundance of Ashwood donated by a grandparent, momentum for the lyre project took off. Dennis Szuhay—an alum parent and board member—steered the ship leading lyre production and has been the heart of the project throughout. Melanie and Katharine collaborated with Dennis in fashioning a design that resembles high-quality lyres yet is authentic to Hartsbrook’s lyres.

As soon as the design was completed, Dennis and a group of students created preliminary models. After consulting with Katharine and Melanie, Dennis worked generously in his home wood shop, even amid COVID-19 school closings and such, and emerged in the fall of 2021 with an entire class set of wooden frames. Throughout that academic year, 7th through 12th-grade students had ample opportunity for hands-on experience with the lyres by sanding, refining, and perfecting them under Katharine Payne’s watchful eye and careful direction.

Tom Brown, an accomplished crafter and woodworker, kindly completed the tasks by affixing all of the necessary hardware.

Introducing the Lyres to Hartsbrook

This year, Melanie has felt such immense gratitude as she has been able to introduce these uniquely special instruments to the first through 3rd-grade students in her music classes. Being able to relay the story of how they came to be, infuses the experience of playing them with warmth and love and enhances the amount of reverence the children have for them. The first grade will be the first class to use them for the full three years of their lyre music program!

A Final Gift

Even with their lyres in hand, Melanie and Katharine weren’t quite finished yet. Knowing they needed to be stored safely, Katharine led the 9th-grade class, who worked together in teams of four to make four boxes out of donated black walnut wood. Each box holds six lyres. To ensure longevity and usability, Melanie and Katharine will sew soft velvet bags individually tailored for every lyre so they can be preserved and used for years to come!

For added personalization, each lyre box was intricately wood-burned with the 9th grade’s class year and signature. Usually, higher grades create something they can use at home; for example, fourth graders have been making wooden animals while eighth graders are building stools. Yet this special occasion allowed them to construct in service of their younger peers.

The Spring 2023 Lyre Ceremony

Melanie and Katharine were elated as they prepared for a final dedication ceremony when the ninth-grade students would present the boxes so that the lyres could find their forever homes, nestled in such love and good intention.

During the ceremony, Melanie led first, second, then third grade in songs played on the lyre, with each class passing it to the next when they were done.

Finally, the third grade, one by one, passed the lyres to the ninth graders who nestled the instruments in their new crates.

How sweet it was to behold the final realization of a long-held dream that was years in the making. Joy shone from every face in the room, especially those of all students who had been involved in making and now playing these amazing gifts!

“It’s an amazing thing that this was able to happen, for this vision, and for us to be able to have these lyres, with so many hands involved,” says Katharine.

Melanie reflects that, “These lyres and boxes will always represent the warmth and generosity of our community and will serve as a humble reminder that beautiful things manifest when we work together for the good of others.”

More photos from the Lyre Ceremony can be found on SmugMug. If you need the password, please reach out to