Autumnal Anticipation

Alison Reese is Editor of Harp Column.

Alison Reese is editor of Harp Column. She is a freelance performer and teacher in West Michigan. Email her at

Heading back to harp lessons with new habits and goals

Autumn is my favorite season. The leaves turn brilliant colors, the air becomes crisp, the chunky sweaters come out of the closet, and all things pumpkin-spice are on the menu.

The best part of fall, though, is that it’s time to head back to school and back to harp lessons. While summer lessons are intermittent at best because of vacations, camps, and festivals, fall lessons are sure and steady—a time to recommit yourself and set goals for your playing. A new school year brings excitement and optimism about what’s possible to accomplish this year. It doesn’t matter how badly the spring recital went or how little you practiced on vacation (not that I’m speaking from personal experience), you start the school year with a clean slate, and anything seems possible.

We have a terrific article in this issue to help you get off on the right foot this fall (see “Gold Star Student” on pg. 38). Whether you’re a student or a teacher, you will want to take Anne Sullivan’s five key habits for student success and plaster them on your wall. As we all eventually come to understand, being a good student doesn’t just happen. “Most of us are not born students.,” Sullivan says. “We develop habits that either propel us forward or keep us circling around success without ever reaching it.”

Sullivan’s suggestions for developing the right habits to move you in a positive direction are spot-on for anyone who wants to be more intentional about becoming a model student. I’ll definitely be using her ideas with my students this fall.

Now, being a gold-star student doesn’t guarantee that you will make it to the top of your field, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone at the top who hasn’t honed those good-student habits. In our cover interview, we talk with Katherine Siochi, the 22-year-old American harpist who won the prestigious USA International Harp Competition in June. Siochi is the quintessential model student. The Iowa native appeared on NPR’s From the Top program, went to Juilliard, won the American Harp Society’s Concert Artist award, and took home the gold medal at the USA Competition all within the space of about six years. Siochi talks a lot about her preparation for the USA contest in our conversation with her, and it’s clear she has developed every one of Sullivan’s five key habits of model students.

What is interesting, though, is that Siochi, a self-described perfectionist when she was younger, says she has come to value the intangible, less quantifiable aspects of music making over technical precision.

“When I was 12, I definitely valued certain things more than I do now, in terms of all of the aspects that go into a performance,” she says. “[Now] I think I more value phrasing, expression, doing something unique over accuracy. Not that I don’t value accuracy, but I would rather listen to a performance that I think has character or really conveys just what the composer is trying to express in a piece over a note-perfect performance that doesn’t say anything unique.”

This perspective reflects Sullivan’s fifth key habit of good students—personal accountability. “The music you play will be the expression of your personal creativity and the result of your efforts,” says Sullivan.

We might not all be world-class harpists like Katherine Siochi, but we can all be model students like Katherine Siochi. And that’s a great goal to set for the new school year.


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

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