Roy Thorson

Aliya Surti, Reporter

   Senior Roy Thorson wanted to join band after his parents said how fun it was, and in sixth grade, he started on the baritone.  

   “I wanted to join an extracurricular activity and both of my parents had always had always talked about how fun band was,” Thorson said.  “Given this, I met with Mrs. Phalen and decided I’d try it out.”

   Thorson has Spinal Muscle Atrophy, a genetic disease that causes muscles not to receive signals from certain nervous systems.   

   To make the baritone work, the lead pipe was completely cut off and turned around.  Somebody would need to finger the instrument while Thorson blew into the horn. The aid had to have some knowledge of music.  

   At the end of Thorson’s eighth grade year, Dr. Luzzio, professor of Engineering at the University of Wisconsin Madison, created a unit that would allow Roy to play by himself. 

   Now a senior, he plays three instruments without an aid.  

   “I play trumpet, trombone and baritone.  They are modified by a system that UW Madison created for me,” Thorson said.  “The system is powered by air and allows me to activate the valves by placing down a micro sensor.”

   Trombones have a slide mechanism that changes the pitch of the instrument by pushing or pulling it into one of seven positions.  

   “The slide trombone will work on a type of mechanic arm,” Thorson said. “It will function similar to how a printer moves paper. I will then activate the movement based off of a touchpad that is proportionate to the slide.”

   Being able to play without an aid has given him the opportunity of playing in marching band as well.  Thorson also has a business where he buys and sells instruments.

   Thorson has played at various fundraisers in the area.  He also presented at the Wisconsin Music Educators Association in Oct. 2019 to show how technology affects music.