Following 27 years with Minnesota Orchestra, Kathy Kienzle will retire from her role as principal harpist in August 2020. “It has been a huge privilege for me to perform with the Minnesota Orchestra as their principal harpist since 1993. There have been many, many highlights over the years: tours that included the great halls of Europe and Carnegie Hall, recordings (including the complete symphonies of Mahler and Sibelius), the world premiere of the harp concerto by Rautavaara and the flute and harp concerto by Liebermann, and all of the wonderful concerts with this great orchestra.”
Reflecting on some of the more difficult times, Kienzle says, “Of course there was also the lockout of October 2012 to February 2014, the longest work stoppage of any major symphony orchestra in the US. Although it was a traumatic experience for us, it also brought us closer together as we produced our own concert series and bonded as a group. It also transformed the way the orchestra now relates to the board and management. We are much more collaborative now in programming, hiring conductors and soloists, and touring.”
Following the lockout, the orchestra traveled to Cuba in February 2015 and recently completed a tour of South Africa. “In Cuba, I had the great pleasure of getting to know the harp teacher in Havana and working with her harp students on harp repertoire, but also helping them learn how to do minor repairs on their very badly maintained harps,” Kienzle shares. “In South Africa, I also connected with two harp teachers and their students. The most moving moment of that tour was a concert we performed in Soweto, at the Regina Mundi church, the center of much of the anti–apartheid movement. We performed for an audience of mostly Soweto residents, many of whom had never heard a symphony orchestra before. After performing the last movement of Beethoven’s ninth symphony, we performed a group of South African songs. The audience jumped to their feet to sing and dance along with us. It was truly a once–in–a–lifetime experience.
Outside of her orchestral career, Kienzle teaches at the University of Minnesota and is a certified Suzuki teacher trainer. Once retired, she hopes to spend more time training teachers in the Suzuki method, believing strongly in its approach. And as Chairman of the World Harp Congress Board of Directors, Kienzle is actively involved in planning the upcoming 2020 congress in Cardiff, Wales. “It is a thrill to work with this dedicated group of wonderful harpists, who volunteer their time to promote the harp worldwide, encourage young harpists, and provide a platform for composers and harpist performers of all genres in triennial congresses in different parts of the world.”