For a quarter century, Kathleen Bride has spent her days teaching lessons in her small studio at the Eastman School of Music in upstate New York, surrounded by piles of harp scores and the ever-present box of York Peppermint Patties (a must for both good and bad lessons). In that time countless young students have gone into her studio and come out transformed both musically and personally.
I met KB, as her students call her, when I was 16 years old and my mom and I were traveling around taking lessons with perspective teachers. I remember my first lesson vividly. Her energy was infectious. She sang and danced and encouraged me until I was making music instead of just playing the harp. I felt an immediate connection with her and had the great honor of studying with KB for seven years during my bachelor’s and doctoral degrees at Eastman, learning much more than just how to play the harp in that time.
KB makes a lasting mark on all who have the opportunity to work with her, and she genuinely cares for all of her students. She took some time out of her very busy teaching, performing, and writing schedule (she has a book coming out soon!) to talk about what she has learned in her time at Eastman, how she maintains her sanity with her insane schedule, and a little preview of her new book.
(Click photos to enlarge.)
Harp Column: In your 26 years at Eastman, having seen so many students come and go, what would you say is the biggest piece of advice you have to give to a student wishing to pursue a career in harp?Kathleen Bride: I think in my 26 years at Eastman and 15 before that at Manhattan (School of Music) one thing that I’ve learned is that the students who really work hard and are goal-oriented will achieve a lot. You can’t just come and coast through school, and if you decide that you want a particular career path—whether it be an orchestral harpist, a chamber musician, teacher, or a combination of the three—you’ve really got to do as much as you can when you’re an undergraduate student and a graduate student. Learn as much music as you can and learn it rapidly, because these are going to be the most valuable years of your life as far as learning music is concerned. When you get out of school you are spending an awful lot of time trying to exist—you have to pay your rent, buy groceries, do your laundry, make car payments, walk the dog, and generally have a life. The four to six compressed years of undergraduate and graduate study are the most important of your professional life. It’s where you make your very good friends and colleagues. It’s where you learn to be a professional and where you learn how to not do certain things that you see around you. I think if you are purpose-driven from the beginning, you are in good stead. Also, never go into a situation thinking that you know everything, because there is always something to learn.