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Unusual donors help South Dakota school purchase ukuleles

WARNER (AP) -- A South Dakota elementary school has purchased 17 ukuleles for its music program, thanks in part to a group of anonymous Eagles fans from Texas.

School supply photo illustration. (Matt Gade/Republic)
School supply photo illustration. (Matt Gade/Republic)

WARNER (AP) - A South Dakota elementary school has purchased 17 ukuleles for its music program, thanks in part to a group of anonymous Eagles fans from Texas.

Warner Elementary School teacher Jennifer Barkmeier decided to launch a fundraiser to buy her students ukuleles after purchasing one for her own child. She thought ukuleles would serve as a great introduction to string instruments.

The school doesn't have an orchestra or a string program, so students who want to learn those instruments have to seek it out on their own, according to Barkmeier.

"I thought, 'Hey, you know, this instrument has four strings instead of six, it shouldn't be too bad,'" Barkmeier said. "It is a little tricky teaching 17 students a brand-new instrument at once."

Barkmeier chose to fundraise on DonorsChoose.org. Donors Choose is a crowdfunding site like GoFundMe or Kickstarter, but for school projects.

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Barkmeier told Aberdeen American News that she received donations from family, friends, students' parents, community members and fellow teachers. She said it took about a week to raise $1,170 for 17 ukuleles and fees.

"For the first seven days of a project, the gifts that are given are matched up to $50," Barkmeier said. "It's a really good way to raise money quickly."

She was less than $200 away from reaching her goal on Jan. 27, when an anonymous final donation was made. A note accompanying the donation read, "Each year our community of fans of the music group the Eagles makes donations to projects that exemplify the spirit of our favorite band that promote music education. Don Henley's first musical instrument was a Ukelele. Rock on!"

Henley is the drummer and co-lead singer of the Eagles. The post was made by a donor in Texas.

"I can only imagine that these are fans and friends, maybe even family members of this famous rock musician who just are doing good things for schools and paying it forward and realizing that everything starts in the schools and in the home with the basics," Barkmeier said.

She promises to teach her students an Eagles song on the ukulele, after they master the basics.

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