Washington County school orchestra appears on Ellen Show, wins $15K

ST. GEORGE — Students of Lava Ridge Intermediate School in April Nielsen’s orchestra class made an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show where they found out they had won a $15,000 prize. The show is set to air on television Friday at 4 p.m.

Along with thousands of other Ellen fans, Nielsen and her students created and submitted a video to the show to wish Ellen a happy 60th birthday.

The Lava Ridge Intermediate School orchestra from Washington County makes an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, January 2018 | Photo courtesy of Lava Ridge Intermediate School, St. George News

“I’ve gotten a lot of sweet messages from my fans for my 60th birthday,” Ellen announced on her show. “I want to show you one of them.”

In the submitted video, the orchestra students play “Happy Birthday” on their musical instruments before holding up a large “Happy 60th Ellen” sign while shouting “Happy Birthday, Ellen!”

The video appeared to have impressed Ellen, although Nielsen said she didn’t know at the time she was notified by the show’s representatives that they had tickets for Nielsen and her husband to view a taping of the Ellen Show.

When the show was filmed Thursday, Nielsen was sitting in the audience as the video was played. Nielsen was then invited to the stage to sit with Ellen on her white chairs while Nielsen’s students appeared live on camera from their class in Santa Clara.

“You guys, you realize what a great teacher you have, right?” Ellen asked the students, to which the kids shouted, “Yes!”

A couple of the students were given a microphone with an opportunity to say something about their teacher. One of Nielsen’s students said:

You taught me how to be kind and how to always be courageous. You taught me so much more than music. Thank you.

In addition to the birthday video, Nielsen had submitted a photo to the show in December as part of a Scotch Brand’s Most Gifted Wrapper contest.

“I heard about the contest and I thought, ‘We have to figure out how to wrap music – music is a gift,’” Nielsen told Ellen, “and I kept thinking, ‘How could we do that?’”

Nielsen ultimately had her students wrap their instruments.

Ellen asked Nielsen what she would have done with the $15,000 prize money if she and her class would have won the contest.

Nielsen said she and her class had discussed taking part in a Disney Performing Arts Workshops where school orchestras can go to prepare and record a performance of special Disney music selections in a studio environment like a professional musician.

Ellen then informed Nielsen that her class had won the contest and the $15,000 prize.

Nielsen told St. George News Friday that she learned the Washington County School District doesn’t allow the age group of her students to travel that far, so they are looking into other neat experiences to spend the money on.

“It just has been the most amazing energy throughout our entire school – it has been incredible,” Nielsen said.

Lava Ridge Intermediate School Principal Kathleen Gubler said the Ellen Show experience has been “so fun” for the school while praising Nielsen for her efforts.

“She’s an amazing, amazing teacher,” Gubler said of Nielsen. “She’s a natural teacher – one of those that just relates to every student.”

This year, Nielsen said, the theme for the class has been: “You don’t get what you wish for, you get what you work for.”

When Nielsen got back to school Friday she said she hugged her students, and they did a lot of talking.

“We talked a lot about that being such a wish, but none of that could have come true had we not put in the work to make that happen,” Nielsen said. “I just think what better than this real-life experience to learn that lesson, and they love that.”

“I hope that it’s taught them to work hard for things that they want,” Nielsen added.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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