At just 33, Michelle Gott has what it takes to lead the next generation of harpists

When the University of Arizona announced last summer that 33-year-old Michelle Gott would be its new harp professor, it marked a generational shift in the harp world. The tragic death of long-time legendary harp professor Carrol McLaughlin last spring left a gaping hole at one of the country’s most notable university harp programs. Now, a program led for more than 30 years by McLaughlin, a Baby Boomer, will be headed up by a Millennial.

We caught up with Gott via Skype earlier this fall to talk about her new appointment at Arizona and all of the hard work that lead to this moment.

Harp Column: You are about a month into your first semester teaching at Arizona. How’s it going so far? What are your first impressions?

Michelle Gott: I love the students. They are so wonderful. They’re also really well trained—Dr. McLaughlin, Carrol, she really ran a tight ship. Even through her illness, you see these students really understand how to practice, how to show up for masterclass and lessons. There was a dress code in place before I came in. They are professional and on top of things and very curious. I think the last couple years were hard for them because there was a lot of uncertainty. Carrol was such a bright figure, and I think there was real belief that she would be back. Now we’re in a phase where there is definitely grief and also a hope for the next chapter and a real need for everything to be in place. That’s where I’m at in terms of re-establishing things—picking up where she left things off and also implementing my own ideas. It’s quite the transition.

Hc: How many harp students are in the program right now?

MG: I work with eight and there are two others that take lessons with my TA [teaching assistant], but all 10 will be working with Harp Fusion, our harp ensemble.

Hc: You’re stepping into some very big shoes, obviously. Carrol was there for over 30 years, and she built an iconic harp program. How do you honor her legacy while also bringing your own talents and interests and ideas into the program?

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Editor of Harp Column, freelance harpist, private teacher, hot yoga lover, and grammar geek.

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