Mackie shared love of music with children
Some called him The Music Man. To school kids, however, he was either The Harmonica Man or The Strum Stick Man.
Scottish born Andy Mackie, a retired horse trainer, lived in a camper in northwest Washington State. At age 59, after nine heart surgeries, he was on 15 medications every day just to stay alive. Sick and tired of the drugs’ side effects making his life miserable, one day he quit taking all 15 and decided to use that money in his final days to do something he had only dreamt. His doctors having told him he would die soon, he used his prescription money to buy and give away 300 harmonicas to schoolchildren. When he didn’t die the next month, Mackie bought and gave away hundreds more.
As he lived on, he traveled from school to school teaching classes to play the harmonica. He gave free individual lessons to any child who wished to learn. He established the Andy Mackie Music Foundation that taught children how to make their own musical instruments, which he called strum sticks, little three-string ukulele-like music makers.
In his later years, he spent the majority of his Social Security check on more strum sticks. In a conversation shortly before he died, he told the interviewer, “Music is a gift. You give it away. You give it away and you get to keep it forever. I can’t explain the joy. I don’t think Bill Gates feels any richer inside than I.”
Thirteen years, 18,000 harmonicas and 5,500 Mackie music sticks after receiving a death sentence from the experts, Mackie died, leaving a giant legacy of love for music and children and generosity.
Mackie’s daughter, Laurie Wolford, said in a Facebook post, “Heaven got the greatest harmonica player this afternoon.”
The Harmonica Man’s music lives on.