What Makes a Musical Role Model

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Life offers plenty of idols and heroes to gaze up at with starry eyes, but few who show us the way to a good musical life

Do you remember thinking, “I want to be just like this person when I grow up”? There are people in our lives that inspire us, change us, and make us better simply by knowing them. As musicians we seek guidance to hone our skills. As people we want to know what is possible. We all look to our role models to show us the way.

But what makes someone’s musical life worth modeling? I recently came across this intriguing explanation of what a role model is, and what makes it different than others we look up to.

“An idol may have a desirable, glamorous life that we eye appreciatively but never actually emulate. A hero may blaze the way forward, teaching and encouraging. But a role model is a person who offers, often unwittingly, an accessible pattern of living,” writes Faith Durand, editor-in-chief at The Kitchn food blog.

With that definition in mind, who is your musical role model? What qualities do they inspire you to emulate in your daily life? Harp Column asked harpists of all ages and career paths to tell us about their musical role models, and the impact these important people have on their lives today.

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About Author

Kela Walton enjoys a varied career as a freelance harpist and teacher in Buffalo, New York. An innovative educator, Kela has maintained a private studio since 1998. In 2014 Kela joined the faculty at Buffalo Suzuki Strings, where she teaches individual and group harp lessons as well as Suzuki Early Childhood Music. Before relocating to Buffalo, Kela founded and directed the harp program for the Round Rock ISD schools in central Texas. Kela was privileged to serve as a harp faculty member previously at Temple College, the University of Houston Moores School of Music Preparatory and Continuing Studies Program, and Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Michigan. Her orchestral credits include engagements with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, San Antonio Symphony, Austin Symphony Orchestra, Corpus Christi Symphony, and Temple Symphony Orchestra. As a chamber musician she has premiered several new works by award winning composers and is the harpist with the Buffalo Chamber Players. She also held a four year position as harpist for tea and holiday brunches at Austin's historic Driskill Hotel. Currently Kela is honored to serve on the national board of directors for the American Harp Society, Inc. Kela Walton holds a Master of Music in Harp Performance and Pedagogy from the University of Houston Moores School of Music where she studied with Paula Page. Additionally she has a Bachelor of Music in Harp Performance from the University of Texas at Austin where she studied with Gayle Barrington. Kela is also an alumnus of the Salzedo School in Camden, Maine where she studied with Alice Chalifoux. Her Suzuki training includes coursework in early childhood education and harp with Sharon Jones, Delaine Fedson Leonard, and Dr. Laurie Scott. After realizing how much her yoga practice enhanced her harp performances and teaching, Kela became certified in Dharma Yoga at the 300 hour level. Kela lives in Buffalo with her husband, conductor Stefan Sanders.

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