Remembering Mary-Elizabeth Collins


Mary-Elizabeth Collins died peacefully on Jan. 24, 2021.

Mary-Elizabeth was blessed with an abundance of musical talent. She began harp lessons at the age of ten studying under renowned harpist Mildred Dilling. She started playing professionally at age 17 and became a soloist with the Ridgewood Symphony at age 18. Mary-Elizabeth continued to lug around her harps over the course of an impressive 68-year career. She performed hundreds of concerts around the world from South America to Hong Kong to Radio City Music Hall in New York City. She played for the annual Christmas Eve services at her beloved West Side Presbyterian Church whenever she was in New Jersey. The harp was a lifelong love and commitment, and she continued performing until her final gig at age 85.

Mary-Elizabeth was a teacher at heart. She derived a lot of joy in nurturing and developing others. We would be remiss not to mention the hundreds of harp students who were on the receiving end of her patience, encouragement and music lessons. She taught until the age of 87, sometimes up to 16 students per week.

Mary-Elizabeth graduated from Ridgewood High School and earned her bachelor’s degrees in music and music education from New Jersey College for Women, known today as Douglass Residential College at Rutgers University.

Friend and fellow harpist Carl Swanson remembers Mary-Elizabeth as a woman who “always had something good, and never negative, to say about anyone.” Mary-Elizabeth Collins was nothing short of incredible. We will remember her generosity and her dedication to the people she loved. She was fun and adventurous, living life to the fullest. She was endlessly supportive and generous with her time and her love. We’re all better humans for it. We love you Mary-Elizabeth, rest peacefully.

Michael Collins 





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  1. Mrs. Collins was a generous, encouraging, and thoughtful teacher. She introduced me to the harp at Mount Saint Mary Academy in Watchung, NJ where she taught in the 1980s and 90s. Years later, she surprised me at a recital in which I played Britten’s Suite, Handel’s Harp Concerto, Stan Golestan’s Ballade Roumaine, and ended with Légende. After the recital, she came up to me and said, “Thérèse, one or two of those pieces in a recital program would be fine. You really don’t need to play all of them.” And we had a good laugh! She had a sharp mind and a caring heart. I will always treasure the lessons I had with her either on the old Style 17 in the Mount parlor or on one of her own harps in her lovely Ho-Ho-Kus home. My deepest condolences to her family. She will be missed.

    ~ Thérèse Hurley

  2. Mary Elizabeth was an incredible mentor and teacher who introduced me to the beautiful instrument of the harp so many years ago. I still remember my first piece learning Hot Cross Buns on a little, green lap harp at the Paramus High School after seeing harp lessons advertised in the local newspaper. Whenever a string broke, she came over to my house to teach me how to restring and repair my harp immediately. She inspired me to continue learning the harp and pursue my degree in harp performance. During my studies, she shared her passion for teaching through introducing me to the Paramus Community program to continue her work. She shared her favorite holiday pieces to play and passed on lever harp books to start young harpists on. Mary Elizabeth Collins was the most patient and passionate teacher I ever had the pleasure of knowing, learning from, and studying under. She will always have a special place in my heart.

    – Katy Wong

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