Q and A with Jessica Siegel

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Looking for a harp festival on the West Coast this spring? You’re in luck. Harps Etc.’s Jessica Siegel is putting the finishing touches on the International Harp Festival, which will take place May 26–29 over Memorial Day weekend in Danville, Calif. The lineup includes Deborah Henson-Conant, Heidi Lehwalder, Beth Kolle, Joanna Mell, Motoshi Kosako, Diana Rowan, Olga Ratkitchenkov, The Pacific Arts Trio, Lisa Lynne and Aryeh Frankfurter, and others.

You may remember Siegel from her 2014 article for Harp Column, Obsessed. We caught up with her to find out how her obsession with the harp led to the creation of the festival and what attendees can expect.

So, tell us about the International Harp Festival. What inspired you to create this event?

The International Harp Festival (IHF), is in its inaugural year. A few things came together that inspired me to have a festival at this time. Harps Etc. held a harp festival in 2011 to celebrate our 10th Anniversary. The participants gave us very positive feedback and encouraged us to do it again. I knew it was just a matter of time. Harps Etc. is now in its 15th year, so it seemed logical to have a festival. However, the more I thought about it, I realized that it’s time for California to host a festival on a regular basis. So what started as a 15th Anniversary Festival has blossomed into the International Harp Festival. The IHF has also coincided with the start of another project. In September 2015, I launched The Diablo Valley Arts Academy, (DVAA), a non-profit organization which provides accessible, affordable music education and performance opportunities for people of all ages and walks of life. Our primary focus for the next few years is to bring the joy of the harp to more members of the community. We are inviting the public to the evening concerts and hope to inspire and educate them on the many different musical styles which can be played on the harp.

It looks like you have quite a diverse lineup of presenters. How did you choose them?

Choosing presenters and artists was really hard. There is so much talent in the harp community. I decided to do a survey of the harp community to see which topics, presenters, and performers received the most interest. Once we got the results, we saw that the respondents wanted both pedal and non-pedal workshops covering a wide variety of topics. They also wanted concerts covering a broad range of musical styles and traditions. We just took the lead from there.

What aspect of the festival are you most excited about?

That’s a tough question.There is a lot to be excited about. I am very excited have been able to put together such a talented group of presenters and performers. We have attendees from the United States and from around the world. The West Coast and Pacific Rim have needed something like this for a long time. I hope to be able to start a West Coast tradition.

What’s the number one reason people should come to the festival?

My Dad always told me that life-long learning is the key to dealing with burnout, fatigue and frustration. The Festival is a place to keep learning, network with other harpists, rethink old ideas and try out new things. I always find that I am tremendously inspired and refreshed after a festival.

Anything else you want to let Harp Column readers know?

We want this festival to exceed expectations. Everyone involved wants you to feel that the IHF was well worth the effort. If you are coming by yourself, we can hook you up with a roommate. If you want to stay off site, we’ll direct you to hotels, transportation, and suggest things to do while you are in the Bay Area. Since it’s a holiday weekend, make it a family vacation and bring your families. They can attend any concert or session with you or send them off to do their own thing while you do something special for yourself!

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