Lighten the Load

Kimberly Rowe

Kimberly Rowe is founding editor of Harp Column and web editor at She performs and teaches in Philadelphia and is co-founder of the Young Artist’s Harp Seminar and Competition.

 Bound by binders and piles of paper? Digital tablets offer the solution.

Despite being a full-time self-employed harpist and founding editor of Harp Column, it’s been a while since I was truly a member of the freelance scene. Early on in my career I played every wedding, party, or hotel gig I could cram onto the calendar just to make enough to pay the rent. If the gig paid, I said yes. I said yes so often and for so many years, in fact, that a few years ago I decided I needed a break, so I turned my attention to teaching and spending more time at Harp Column.

I confess that there are certain aspects of the freelance lifestyle I haven’t missed one tiny bit. Nearing the top of the list, just a few steps below discussing with a mother of the bride that “no, really the harp can’t be outside in the rain” and playing an unamplified reception for 400 people at the local ladies club, has to be the endless organizing and schlepping of music depending on the gig du jour.

Throughout the years I’ve experimented with various methods of organizing music so that I could always be prepared with what I needed at a moment’s notice. First, I assembled giant, oversized binders that weighed about 25 pounds each and could only be supported by the sturdiest of Manhasset stands. I had so many binders that If I was playing a long gig, I literally needed a luggage cart to wheel in everything I might want to play that day.

To lighten my load, I ditched the giant binders and made double-sided copies that I spiral-bound into less cumbersome notebooks. They weren’t very durable however, and bits were always falling out leaving me struggling to improvise random pages of anything from “First Arabesque” to “Moon River”.

And then there were the overseas hotel gigs I was lucky enough to get. Into my two allotted bags went gowns, strings, and enough music to get me through playing five hours a night, six nights in a row, for four months at a stretch. Needless to say, I packed a lot of music. This would obviously never fly (pun intended) with today’s airline baggage weight restrictions.

If only there were a better way…

This issue does not mark the first time we’ve highlighted the miracle of modern technology. As far back as 2011 our tech guru Barbara Brundage had already figured out how to make her gigging lifestyle easier by using a tablet in place of printed music on the job (See “Take the iPad to the Gig” May/June 2011). But it’s taken a lot of us, including me, a little longer to really get with the program (pun intended).

Recently, we were intrigued to see the Chicago Harp Quartet use only iPads in place of printed music at a concert. I knew people were using tablets for casual gigs, but this was the first time I had seen them used in a real concert. And while digital technology often results in a disconnect with those around us, the opposite seemed to be true on stage. Without the barrier of a traditional music stand (the quartet uses custom iPad stands), musicians are better able to connect with the audience, through eye contact and minimized page turning distractions, a benefit the quartet writes about for us in their article “Going Digital” on pg. 26.

Since my hiatus I’ve begun easing back into the freelance scene, and my iPad has come with me. I can’t believe how easy it is to download the latest pop tunes, organize digital set lists, and literally be able to access everything at my fingertips. I haven’t completely broken free of the printed page yet, but I’ve whittled my system down to a single bag that goes easily over my shoulder.

We hope you enjoy our “Going Digital” feature, as well as everything else in this issue. As always, we want to know what you think. Visit us on to give us your feedback! •



About Author

Kimberly Rowe is co-founder of Harp Column and served as Editor of the print edition from 1993–2013. She now serves as Web Editor. Kimberly performs and teaches in the mid-Atlantic region of the US. She is co-founder of the Young Artist's Harp Seminar, and on the faculty at Temple University, in Philadelphia.

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