Local man uses instrument sales, donations for music therapy program

For retired Procter & Gamble employee Greg Huntington, the sweetest music is the kind that can bring joy to children who need it the most.

Huntington, the founder of independently owned and operated True Joy Acoustics of Liberty Twp., this week will donate 25 premium Flea-brand ukuleles to the music therapy program at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

The donation, the largest since True Joy Acoustics’ inception in 2010, will bring the company’s total contributions to 53 instruments.

Huntington launched the program while researching music therapy and how it could be integrated into his business and how his business could help that profession. In doing so, he connected with music therapist Brian Schreck at the hospital as Schreck coordinated the growing team of board-certified music therapists there. He also saw it in action in a high-end nursing care facility in Oakley.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I walked away from that — even though I didn’t ultimately go down a brick-and-mortar new business start up because of the economy. When I came back to create an e-commerce business focused on just these instruments, I just wanted to connect and support that.”

Made by Massachusetts-based Magic Fluke Company, Flea-brand ukuleles include special features that make them ideally suited for hospitalized patients, Huntington said. In addition, they’re accessible because they stand upright on a table or nightstand; they’re also colorful, easily playable, durable and easy to maintain in accordance with hospital infection control standards, he said.

Huntington, a guitar player since the age of 6, said he got the idea for True Joy Acoustics when Schreck showed him a banjo case missing the instrument itself.

“I asked him where it was, and he said, ‘This kid, he just loves it, so I just leave it in the room,’” Huntington said. “That really was the spark to say, ‘Well, let me find an ideal instrument that most, if not all, kids can play and can be used therapeutically; and how can I drive these into the hospital?’”

Realizing a small shop would be challenged with competing against big-name retailers, Huntington opted to bring uniqueness to “the whole community flavor and feel of products and services.”

“Instead of just coming to my shop and getting him a guitar lesson, you could bring a child with autism for a music therapy session, or I could have a service that would come to your home and do that,” he said.

When Huntington changed True Joy to “purely an online business,” it gave him something that would differentiate the company from other similar businesses.

“If you buy a ukulele or an instrument from me, I’m not going to raise the price for you,” he said. “I’m going to use some of those proceeds to drive these instruments and get them to kids that are stuck in the hospital.”

The ukuleles sell for about $200 and Huntington said he pools proceeds from each instrument toward new ones, which True Joy Acoustics then gives to Cincinnati Children’s patients, Huntington said.

The ukulele sponsorship program provides an easy, quick, low-cost means for individuals and businesses to connect, Huntington said.

Thanks to ongoing sponsorships of more ukuleles, a growing number of the instruments can remain in hospital rooms for children to strum between therapy sessions. In special cases, a child is allowed to keep their ukulele.

Schreck, who now conducts music therapy for the hospital’s StarShine Hospice and Palliative Care program, said True Joy Acoustics’ donation is “an important gift.”

“Making music and expressing oneself in therapeutic ways can bring countless moments of joy among patients and families dealing with major health concerns,” Huntington said.

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