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The power of music: Canton students 3-D print adaptive guitar device for classmate, changing his life

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Posted at 7:42 AM, Jan 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-03 18:57:14-05

CANTON, Ohio — Music can be therapeutic for so many of us. It evokes certain emotions and often takes us to a special place. For one Canton City School District student, music has changed his life forever.

The students, faculty and staff at McKinley Senior High School say freshman Nehemiah Culver pushes them to be a better version of themselves each day.

Nehemiah is proof that by putting your heart into it, you can do anything.

“When I’m playing, it feels like I’m actually on my own stage performing for thousands," Nehemiah said.

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Nehemiah says performing music has taken him to a place he’s never been before.

The moment he picks up the guitar, he feels something more.

“When I listen to music, I hear different notes," Nehemiah said.

The 15-year-old who was born with cerebral palsy always dreamt of playing guitar but didn’t know if it was possible.

Through innovation and collaboration within the district, it became a reality.

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way," said Dona Brown, a physical therapist with Canton City Schools.

Career and Technical Education Pre-Engineering instructor Chad Weaver and his students worked with guitar instructor George Dean to develop a custom assistive device that helps Nehemiah hold and play the guitar.

Using 3-D printing modeling software to design it — and after trying out three or four different prototypes — they successfully landed on the right device.

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It looks like a simple wristband with Velcro, but it’s proven to be beyond that.

“This here mounts in and basically acts as the fingers then, and he can full-on strum," said Chad Weaver, CTE Pre-Engineering Instructor at Canton City Schools.


Canton City Schools music teacher George Dean let Nehemiah borrow one of his guitars.

Dean says watching him play has been a career highlight.

“He just pushes me to want to be a better teacher," Dean said.

Nehemiah even got to showcase his newfound talents at the school Winter Music Festival, leaving the audience in awe.

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Brown, Nehemiah's lifelong physical therapist who he calls a second mom, is beyond proud.

“We’ve been through a lot. It’s been a lot of ups and downs, and we pull it together when we need to," Brown said.

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Nehemiah’s gratitude is tangible.

“Thank you, and I love you guys," he said.

The faculty and staff watching him flourish say they are forever inspired.

“It touches my heart. He’s a great kid," Brown said.

“Grandma always told me,'"Can’t" never did anything.' Nehemiah does not have the word 'can’t' in his vocabulary," Weaver said.

He tells his students it’s their civic duty to make people’s lives better through the devices they create, and they plan to continue to do so.

As for Nehemiah, he says he wants to learn Michael Jackson's "Beat It" and "Thriller" on the guitar.

Once he gets those down, he hopes to learn the piano in the near future.