Remembering Louise Trotter (1923–2019)

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“It has taken me a long time to realize that there comes a time when you quit playing notes and begin to play music.”

Louise Lantz Trotter, 96, passed away on Oct. 17, 2019, with her family at her side. Born Sept. 4, 1923, in Port Arthur, Texas, Louise had classical training in piano and harp from early childhood. When she was 12, her father built a pedal harp for her. She was in the all-girl symphony at Texas Woman’s University and later studied with Mildred Dilling in New York. She married George Trotter in 1942 and they raised three children: Gary, Caryl, and Tracy. She adored her family which included seven grandchildren and five great grand-children. 

She played with the Beaumont and Baytown (Texas) Symphonies as well as having a steady gig at the Brownstone Restaurant and Adam’s Mark Hotel. 

I met Louise in 1982 at a Salvi Pop & Jazz Festival in Santa Barbara, Calif. We hit it off right away, and, although we are from different generations, we discovered we liked the same type of music and had similar styles. Our friendship flourished over the years and we formed a duo. We produced one recording together. We often ended up teaching and performing at the same harp events and we would meet up at harp conferences around the world. She was an avid traveler and had friends everywhere. 

Louise’s colleagues in the harp world remember her fondly. Mary Radspinner noted that she was a lifelong learner. Indeed, she was comfortable both as a student or teacher. Kim Robertson shared that she will always remember the good advice Louise gave: “You need to be what you advertise.” Frank Voltz said, “Louise opened my eyes, my mind, and my heart to new adventures with the harp.” 

Louise was equally at home with the lever harp and pedal harp. She was the 2004 recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Society of Folk Harpers and Craftsmen and served on the board of the American Harp Society. She wrote hundreds of arrangements and instructional books and taught at events both nationally and internationally. She appeared on the cover of the March/April 2004 issue of Harp Column and recorded 14 CDs. During her performances, she would often imitate Elvis or Willie Nelson, or break into a country-style rendition of “Last Date” or “Steel Guitar Rag.” She loved playing in her jazz trio with flute and drums. Even in retirement, she played piano every evening for the residents in her senior living center. 

Louise was creative and fearless. She was my friend for nearly 40 years. Her indomitable spirit, sense of adventure, and perseverance will be profoundly missed. 

—Jan Jennings

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