Q and A with Katherine Harrison

If you are a harpist on Instagram, there’s a pretty good chance your feed has been filled with photos tagged with #harpril this month. The daily photo challenge encourages harpists to share photos and stories about their harp lives on a different topic each day in April. It has spread like wildfire from a few friends who posted on April 1 to nearly 2,000 posts with the hashtag today. The challenge was started by an Instagram account called @lowpressureharpshare. We had to find out who was behind this fabulously fun idea, so we tracked down #harpril creator Scottish harpist Katherine Harrison and asked her a few questions about the challenge.
Tell us how you came up with this idea and what you did to get the word out.
Harpril was inspired by another couple of Instagram challenges I’ve been involved in before—March Meet the Maker, which is more aimed at artists, designers, and crafters, and InspirApril, which was for bloggers. I really loved learning more about people and their own creative journey, and I loved the structure of a daily post responding to a specific prompt. It can be hard to think about what to post sometimes and I had definitely got stuck in a social media rut.
I wanted to try a very harp-specific version as our world is quite niche, and I wanted harpists to join in with something that was just for them. We can always learn from each other, no matter what stage we’re at in our career, and I was genuinely curious about all the other harpists out there. It can be quite lonely as a harpist, but I really love the community I have with my harp buddies on Instagram. They’ve really supported me when things have been tough, so I wanted to explore that community some more.

Where did your Instagram account name “@lowpressureharpshare” come from?

Katherine Harrison and her three “low pressure harp share” friends (clockwise from top left): Zuzanna Olbrys, Katherine Harrison, Nana Welsh, and Ewelina “Eve” Brzozowska are pictured in #harpril photos they posted on Instagram this month.

I’m really good friends with three other pedal harpists in Scotland (Zuzanna Olbrys, Ewelina “Eve”Brzozowska, and Nana Welsh), and the Low Pressure Harp Share is our name for our meet ups that we have every so often. I asked them what they thought about the idea. I had to explain it a little, but explaining it to them helped me make it as clear as I could when we started posting. We just started posting on day one on our own accounts, and it spread from there. @angelinawarburton was our first poster (thank you so much!), and my heart leapt through the ceiling when I saw someone else was joining in!
Has the popularity of the challenge surprised you?
I’m absolutely amazed and pretty bowled over when I think about how many people have joined in with our challenge! We had no idea how popular it would become—in fact it has become quite tricky to keep up with all the posts. It was a total experiment that we thought maybe a few of our harp buddies would take part in, but it has gone truly global and we’re absolutely delighted. Apologies if we haven’t liked everyone’s posts!
How did you come up with the 30 daily challenges?
This was quite tricky as I didn’t want to copy what had been done before out of respect for other people who have made their own challenges. Topics like introductions, teachers, and “meet my harp” were obvious, but then we needed to put our heads together to come up with the rest. Self care was suggested by all of us as being something really important to ask people about, and “how I mark my music” was inspired by us having a play together session and admiring how neat and beautiful one of Nana’s scores was! Things like regrets and “what you’re proud of” are much deeper, more personal prompts, and I’m not sure how people will respond to those.
It was also really important to keep it fun, so we’ve tried to emphasize this in all our posts and messages when people are saying things like “I’m behind” or “I don’t know what to post” etc. People can dip in and out on the days they feel strongly or are able to join in, and no one minds if you’re behind. (I’m currently a week behind on my own Harpril!)
What has been the most unexpected thing that has come out of this challenge so far?
That I am clearly missing out by not eating bananas on concert day! I had no idea this is where I’ve been going wrong all these years! (See all the Day 3: Concert Rituals banana posts.)
Seriously…I’ve felt really emotional reading some of the posts, and I wasn’t prepared for that. Some of the difficulties people have overcome to be able to buy a harp, or to travel to lessons, or challenging prejudice and stereotypes, or other deeper struggles have been so moving. People have been so open and generous with what they’ve shared. We are all musicians so I guess it’s natural that we are good communicators, but I’ve really loved how my normal Instagram feed has been so positive and inspiring and utterly fascinating over the last couple of weeks.
I’ve also learned some really excellent tips for how to store my harp covers!
Any favorite #harpril photos you’ve seen that you want to give a shout out to?
Really there are so many, but Eve’s picture with the parrot (see photo grid above) is probably my favorite. It was from Day 9: I’m a Harpist But…  Eve wishes she could be a zookeeper, which really made me laugh. I’m biased as she’s a really dear friend of mine, but it is wonderful to see her spirit and personality captured so perfectly in a photo.
Another harpist posted about having a day job because of the amount of college loan debt she has, and, while it’s not necessarily a stand out photo, the post was extremely hard-hitting and so many people responded offering great support and sharing their own stories. I’ll leave people to search through the hashtag to find that one. “Harp Cliché” and “Harp Rebel” days were also great fun and frustrating in equal measure! I’m hoping to do a proper roundup at the end of the month and it’s going to be so hard trying to capture everything.
Finally, you’ve created a way for harpists to share so much about their harp lives, can you tell us a little more about your harp life?
I grew up with a musician for a mum, and progressed quickly on both piano and pedal harp. I burned myself out at 18, left music behind for over 10 years, and then I came back to the harp as an adult student when a friend asked if I’d play at her wedding. I was lucky enough to find an incredible teacher who unpacked all the reasons for the burnout and set me off on the path I’m on now. I returned to music college aged 34, which was when I moved to Glasgow. I now have a non-musical day job, but I perform professionally for weddings, etc., and I also love putting together more unusual solo concerts on my Camac DHC. I’m really enjoying experimenting with storytelling, electronics, and effects, and I’m pleased to say that I’m a very happy harpist these days. 

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

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