ELYRIA, Ohio– Those who know Jordan Harris of Elyria know that when he sets his mind to something, he is going to do it and do it well.
But when he decided he wanted to play the cello in the Eastern Heights Middle School orchestra, they had to wonder, how is he going to do it?
Born without a lower left arm, Jordan is now able to play the cello with a bow mounted on a specially-designed prosthetic arm, and how it was designed and built is a story about innovation and inspiration. Jordan’s love of music comes from his father, who plays the drums, and when Jordan saw his cousin playing the cello, he says he knew he had found an instrument that matched his musical spirit. “I saw my friends were like joining orchestra so I was just like I’ll join orchestra too and that might be fun, and then my cousin got really excited, like really, really excited”, he said with a grin.
As word of his aspirations to play the cello spread throughout the Elyria School District, a teacher at Elyria High School thought his class might be able to help. “My job at the Makers Space is to teach kids how to open and explore any kind of project that they want to,” said Imagineering Hub teacher Mike West.
And when Elyria student Molly Fenik, a member of the robotics team, heard about the Jordan Harris cello project, she volunteered because she is planning a career in prosthetics. Molly used a 3D printer to design the components of the device and then had it specially fitted so that Jordan could execute all of the movements of a cellist. “A piece coming down had to be long enough to reach the section in the cello to where he plays the music, so it’s long enough and it also had to be at the right angle to where he could lift up, hit this key and go down to get the closest one to him,” said Molly.
Jordan Harris says he got a quite a reaction when he first brought the prosthetic device to the orchestra room. “When I first walked in with the prototype on, they were like ‘ohhh’, their jaws dropped to the floor,” he said with a chuckle. The owner of The Loft Violin Shop in Columbus was so inspired by the team effort that found a solution to Jordan Harris’ cello challenge that they donated a specially-outfitted cello for a year. Jordan is now practicing so that he’ll be ready for the Eastern Heights Christmas concert in December.