Tips and strategies for safely shipping your harp.

—by Katherine Pecora

One of Dickie Fleisher’s harps awaits pickup for shipping. Fleisher learned early on to put his harps on shipping pallets to avoid accidental damage by shipping companies who use forklifts to load their cargo.

His heart was beating fast as he unsnapped the shiny metal buckles on the sides of the box, opened the lid, and gingerly lifted the harp out. The sharply dressed man held the large Paraguayan instrument in the air as he carefully surveyed its post-flight condition. Everything on the harp appeared to be in working order—the strings, the wood—and then his stomach dropped. Tilting the harp to the side, he saw three long cracks on the back of the soundboard and instantly knew what had happened.

Harpist Alfredo Rolando Ortiz’s instrument received a death blow when it was dropped on the hard floor during a TSA inspection and then was returned to its case. The instrument case itself remained in perfect condition. This wasn’t the first time Ortiz’s harp received damage during airport inspection. That harp in particular had accumulated many scratches due to rough handling.

Ortiz’s story is every musician’s worst nightmare. It’s also a reminder that transporting an instrument isn’t without dangers. Whether you’re shipping a harp across the country or bringing it on the plane with you as luggage, traveling with a harp can be nerve-wracking. Every time a harpist takes their instrument outside their home, they have to navigate many obstacles to ensure the harp’s safety. From bumpy roads to strangers eager to “let me get that for you,” the world is full of dangers for the majestic but somewhat fragile harp.

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