Arranger Profile—Rhett Barnwell


Rhett Barnwell on his unorthodox path to harp arranging.

What is your musical background?
I have a somewhat unorthodox background in music, partially fueled by the fact that I could never decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. (And still haven’t!) I started the cello at 10 and then added clarinet, flute, French horn, piano, and bassoon to my musical toy box by the time I reached high school. My freshman year of college, I added pipe organ to the list and attempted to triple major in organ, cello, and horn, but there are only so many hours in the day to practice. I finally settled on horn as a major, but in my senior year of college I took up the harp. I went on to get a Master’s degree in French horn performance, with secondary emphases in cello and conducting. A few years later, I started a Doctoral degree in choral conducting, with an emphasis in Gregorian chant, and organ. My interest in Gregorian chant led me to study at Westminster Choir College, the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music in Rome, and at the Abbey of Solesmes, France.  I had to put harp on the back burner for a number of years, but finally came back to it about 15 years ago and studied with several very good teachers who helped me to pursue it more seriously. I have also subsequently taken up the viola da gamba, cornetto, baroque triple harp, and trumpet. If there is such a thing as musical schizophrenia, I certainly have it!
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