How one harpist took a New Year’s resolution to the next level
—by Rosanna Moore
In 2019, I challenged myself to make a short video of myself playing the harp every day, and post it on social media for accountability (check out @365daysofharp on Instagram to see the proof). You read that correctly, dear reader, every single day in 2019—365 days, 365 posts. Quite the New Year’s resolution! I must be a mad woman.
Why did I do this to myself? Aside from being a slight glutton for punishment with a penchant for funny hashtags (I’m still a little too proud of my #365daysofharpiness pun), I wanted to make sure that I kept practicing and playing my instrument while gearing up for the dreaded Eastman doctoral comprehensive exams last February. Many friends put down their instruments for up to eight weeks in the lead up to these exams, and I just couldn’t bring myself to do that. I went into this degree as a performer, and I was determined to come out the other side as a performer.
As an active freelancer, I also was consistently performing while studying and taking my exams. I crazily said yes to subbing with Buffalo Philharmonic two days before my exams, because you can’t say no the first time they ask you! Had I not been actively playing everyday, I certainly wouldn’t have been comfortable learning a new (to me!), in-depth orchestral work on top of studying.
Additionally, I was inspired by Harp Column’s 30 Day Practice Challenge held each January, and by the projects of other harpists, such as Olivia Jaguers’ inspiring @15secondharp and Juan Riveros’ diligent
@diaryofaharpist. I have always been intrigued by the 30 Day Challenge, but found that the requirements never quite lined up with what I needed to be working on. This was especially true in 2019, as I opened the year with preparing two new works by the delightful Amy Nam and Nadim Jauffur for the Future Blend Project in Warwick, U.K. in early January. So instead of adhering to the 30-day mandate, I just decided to go all out and aim for the entire year.
A question I was asked a lot was whether I actually recorded every day. Yes, I did, but with a couple of caveats. There were eight days that I posted photos in lieu of videos when I did not have the chance to snap a video during the day, or when I was worried that an orchestral manager might not invite me back if I did. There was one day that I played the piano instead because my harp was snowed in at the hall when a Rochester Philharmonic concert was canceled. Also, there was one day that I ran the spoken word part of a piece I was playing (Ailie Robertson’s “Overheard on a London Bus”) when I was traveling to the American Harp Society Summer Institute.
One of the greatest perks of this challenge was being able to showcase all of my chamber groups in the run up to our recitals or recordings, highlighting both the composers and repertoire we were working on. Throughout the year, I recorded bits and pieces with my trio (Trio Alexander) as we embarked on our first album. I started a new performance/ theatrical duo with bassoonist Blaire Koerner (Hats and Heels Duo), and I had my first U.S. performance with my wonderful percussion and harp duo, Sticks&Strings. This show with Sticks&Strings was particularly special, as we presented nearly an entire program of repertoire from our commissioning project, God Complex.
What did I learn from this mildly silly experiment?
- Apparently I didn’t completely bore people to tears with my silly faces on my daily videos.
- “Resting counting face” is a real thing.
- My repertoire is pretty eclectic.
- Bringing a phone charger with you everywhere when you’re still using an older iPhone model is essential.
- Some recordings were done in one take, others took more than I would like to admit. Had I tried to keep all the outtakes, I think my phone would have exploded.
This project certainly did not go viral, but it was never intended to do so. This has been a passion project, and it functioned like a sort of musical journal. As I embark on my career as a professional and leave my student life behind, I can’t help but think this has been a great tool for fueling my creativity.
And what of the future of @365daysofharp? Is it now going to disappear into obscurity? Well, not quite yet. After all, 2020 is a leap year, so I decided to bring back this challenge for 366 days. I’ve taken a more relaxed approach this year. I am focusing on showing growth in longer term projects and trying not to be quite so much of a perfectionist with works that are still very much in progress. Feel free to follow along! •