—by Ann Yeung
After a tragically brief period following a cancer diagnosis, Lisa Spurlock Gilmore passed from this earthly world on July 2, 2018. Most significantly, Lisa was a passionate and caring teacher, friend, wife, and mother. She is survived by her husband and their two young sons, her brother and his wife, and her parents. Countless family, friends, and students have loved and admired her generous and creative spirit, her faithful nature, caring and inspirational example, modest and gracious humor, preternatural intelligence, and marvelous musicality.
Lisa began studying the harp at age 8; she was the first student of Linda Wood Rollo at the Ursuline School of Music and Drama in Louisville, Ky. She attended a summer harp class with Susann McDonald the next year on full scholarship, enrolled in Indiana University’s Pre-College Harp Program where she had lessons with Elzbieta Szmyt and myself, and later entered IU for undergraduate studies.
Linda Wood Rollo shares:
Lisa was brought to me as a beginning harp student in Louisville in 1992. She was … the cherished daughter of two brilliant musician parents who had met at Juilliard. Lisa’s father, Dan, was a bassist and the conductor of the Louisville Chorus. Her mother, Gloria, was a violinist and Suzuki violin teacher. Lisa inherited all the finest musical qualities from her parents. She was a mature, lovely, and prodigious child. Our birthdays were one day apart, and she once baked a birthday cake and brought it to her lesson for us to celebrate! She was extremely creative. When I moved back to California, Lisa went to the pre-college department at Indiana University and then was accepted into the class of Susann McDonald.
Lisa was a very special person. This tragedy has broken all of our hearts. Our loving thoughts and prayers are with her family.
After IU, Lisa went on to establish the dynamic and vibrant Louisville Harp Academy. It seemed no matter what she decided to do—figure skating, building a successful professional studio and career, decorating, parenting—Lisa’s talents were limitless.
A devoted teacher’s legacy survives in myriad ways. Some of her students have continued on to distinguished music programs while others have contributed back to the world championing music as a positive guiding principle in their lives, thanks to her encompassing and encouraging holistic example. In Lisa’s own words, “At the Louisville Harp Academy, we strongly encourage anyone interested in music to pursue training and development of their ability as an artist. Playing a musical instrument not only increases brain development, self-awareness, and analytical skills, but it also can become a favorite life-long hobby or career.” As a close colleague, it has been inspirational to hear her students perform at summer harp classes with their own individual joy and artistry through her guidance, whether playing a duet rendition of Super Mario Bros. in full costume or a soulful solo concert.
As a performer, Lisa garnered four national honors including first prize in the Grandjany Division (1997), Anne Adams Award (2002), and fourth prize in the Young Professional Division of the American Harp Society, Inc. National Competition (2007). Many among us still recall her dazzling third movement of the Pescetti Sonata for the Anne Adams Awards.
While teaching 60 students (both harp and piano) in Louisville, Lisa decided to prepare for the 2007 AHS National Competition; it was a delight to hear Lisa’s natural yet brilliant heartfelt musicality once again as she seemingly effortlessly prepared the Parish Alvars Norma Variations and Salzedo’s Ballade (that can be heard on her website) in her inimitable style.
In spite of the many students and audiences she inspired and the accolades she collected, what remains with me is the first time I heard Lisa, at the age of nine in that Susann McDonald summer harp class, performing Hasselman’s La Source; years later, it is that same purity and maturity heard in Lisa’s own arrangement of “Still, Still, Still,” that I hear continue onward through her inspired students.
Our community has lost a great artist, teacher, and person too soon. Her family has lost an exceptional daughter, mother, friend, and spouse. May her legacy continue to live on with us through our own lives and in our music.