This year’s Midwest Harp Festival will be the last of its kind. Historically held at the University of Tulsa, the festival will move to Chicago in 2019, with Jaina Carpenter as executive director. Carpenter, who has been assistant director since 2012, says, “I first became involved with the Midwest Harp Festival in 2011 as a participant. It was such an energizing experience to spend a week with over 30 other harpists that I already couldn’t wait to attend the following year! The assistant director at the time was unable to return, and Executive Director Lorelei Kaiser Barton asked if I was interested in the position. I immediately said yes!” Barton, who will be retiring at the end of this season after 19 years leading the program, shares, “A few years ago, I asked Jaina if she would be interested in taking over for me when I was ready to resign. She always answered, ‘Maybe.’ I’m glad the ‘maybe’ has turned to ‘yes.’”
Reflecting on the success of the festival, Barton talks about the faith and encouragement of the board of directors. She adds, “Everyone these past 19 years—faculty, staff, and volunteers—has been selfless, hard-working, and has diligently upheld the high standards that are expected. I’m excited to watch Jaina continue the festival in a different setting with new and fresh ideas.”
When asked about those upcoming changes to the Midwest Harp Festival, Carpenter says:
“The Midwest Harp Festival will be moving to the Chicagoland area in 2019, but we do not have an exact location or dates at this time. We are hoping to have something secured by August and will make an announcement on the Midwest Harp Festival Facebook page once it is finalized! The new nonprofit running the festival is the Barton Harp Initiative; we wanted to pay homage to Lorelei Kaiser Barton and her family for everything they have done to make the festival what it is today. Lorelei started this idea with a few of her students coming to her house on weekday mornings. In 1999, it became the Tulsa Harp Camp at Oral Roberts University with nine students. Several years later, the name became the Midwest Harp Festival, and under Lorelei’s tutelage, it has grown to include over 30 harpists from several states each year. This July will be the 19th annual Midwest Harp Festival in Tulsa, and we look forward to moving it to Chicago for its 20th year in 2019!”
Both Carpenter and Barton are exceedingly proud of the program’s mission and the community created as a result. “One thing I love about the current Midwest Harp Festival is that it promotes camaraderie among harpists,” Barton says. “Everyone leaves with new friends and a renewed passion for their instrument. As the future executive director…my focus is on providing a nurturing atmosphere where everyone gets a chance to learn. I want harpists of all ages and abilities to feel welcome at the festival, from the 8-year-old who has played for a year to the harp major in college to the adult who recently picked up music as a hobby.” Says Barton, “I started this to bring growth, inspiration, and camaraderie to my own students. It’s turned out a vessel to bring all of those things to many other harpists.”
Open to harpists of all ages and experiences, the Midwest Harp Festival offers harp ensemble, workshops, a multi-leveled solo competition, and activities for teens and young adults. This year’s program features guest artist Frank Voltz, with Mary Bircher, Elizabeth Richter, and Faye Seeman as faculty members, in addition to Barton and Carpenter. Upcoming workshops include, “Guidance for the Ethical Harpist,” “23 Harpists and Me: Exploring Your Harp Ancestors,” and a harp maintenance class led by harp doc Peter Wiley.