Soda Creek Elementary School hoping to purchase new guitars to honor Asher Lesyshen-Kirlan |

Soda Creek Elementary School hoping to purchase new guitars to honor Asher Lesyshen-Kirlan

Scott Franz

— A new bench or a planted tree just wouldn’t be powerful enough to remember a young boy who was so full of energy.

No, Soda Creek Elementary School is working on a more fitting and hands-on way to honor the memory of 9-year-old Asher Lesyshen-Kirlan.

The school is hoping that starting in the fall, all of the fourth-graders at Soda Creek and Strawberry Park elementary schools in Steamboat Springs will be able to pluck away on new nylon-string guitars and find joy in music — just like Asher did this school year.

"The guitar was one of Asher’s passions," Soda Creek Principal Michele Miller said. "This will just be a way to honor him and his memory, and to help with our healing process and to help bring joy through music at our school."

The downtown elementary school that Asher attended has launched a fundraising campaign to purchase a new class set of 25 guitars that will be engraved with the words "Play it for Asher."

The guitars, which are estimated to cost about $150 apiece, will be three-quarters of the size of an adult guitar and feature nylon strings that make it easier for children to learn before they upgrade to acoustic or electric guitars.

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Parents can make financial donations to the school or donate a new guitar through the summer.

Neil Marchman, who started teaching Asher how to play the guitar this school year at First String Music in Steamboat, said Thursday he was excited to hear about the fundraiser.

"I think it’s a great idea and a lot of good will come from it," Marchman said. "Hopefully some of Asher’s friends will continue to play guitar and think about him."

Marchman recalled teaching the boy who approached learning music the same way he approached his skiing: With unlimited zeal and optimism.

More recently, Asher was quickly learning to play Beethoven’s "Ode to Joy," a song he was planning to play at a talent show at Soda Creek.

"You may be trying to talk to him about the next piece of instruction, but he’s already off and running," Marchman said. "He definitely did well at anything he chose to do."

The fundraiser was started earlier this week when the school was approached by CBS News in Denver to participate in the Pay it Forward campaign.

On Wednesday, Miller said the Denver news station aired a piece promoting the fundraiser.

Soda Creek music teacher Jake Gasau said some donors already have stopped by the school, and Asher’s classmates are excited about the prospect of adding the guitar to the elementary curriculum.

"I think it’s going to be such a positive and wonderful way of remembering Asher," Gasau said. "His death was so sudden and so shocking to everyone in the school, this is going to be a great way for everyone to heal and carry on his memory."

Asher was killed May 29 in his Stagecoach home. Police have arrested his mother, Lisa Marie Lesyshen, and charged her with his murder. Investigators say she killed Asher and tried to take her own life in an effort to hurt her husband. The couple was in the process of separating.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email

How to donate

Soda Creek Elementary School will accept financial donations and new guitars for the program at the school this month.

Donations also can be dropped off at the Steamboat Springs School District’s administrative offices on Seventh Street through July. Checks should be made out to Soda Creek Elementary School.

For more information, call the school at 970-879-1530.