Stage Set in Atlanta for AHS National Conference

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Harpists from across the country will descend on Atlanta this summer for the 42nd American Harp Society National Conference June 30­–July 3. The early registration deadline is fast approaching, and we asked conference co-chair John Wickey to fill us in on what is planned for this edition of the biennial gathering of harpists, featuring the artists above and many more. 

Harp Column: Tell us what harpists can expect at the conference.

John Wickey: Probably the most obvious feature of the programming is the emphasis we’ve placed on youth participation. From the opening concert to the last note played, young people will be on stage. There will also be plenty of workshops for professional development and learning as well as performers from all over the world.

HC: The Atlanta Chapter of the AHS is hosting the event. How long have you been planning it?

JW: Talks began in the summer of 2014 and we’ve been working on it ever since.

HC: What event or aspect of the conference are you most excited about?

JW: That’s a tough question but the evening programs should prove to be spectacular. The opening concert, Spotlight on Youth, features an honors youth harp ensemble performing with Bridget Kibbey, Park Stickney, and local soprano Indra Thomas. The next evening the Susann McDonald Tribute Concert presents Maria Casale, Maria Luisa Rayan, the Aletheia Duo, Elizabeth Hainen, and Naoko Yoshino. And if that wasn’t exciting enough, Remy van Kesteren will perform the last evening concert.

HC: What are some of the performers and presenters we should know about?

JW: With apologies to those we don’t have space to mention, readers should know that performance psychologist Noa Kageyama of Bulletproof Musician blog (bulletproofmusician.com) and David Cutler, author of The Savvy Musician and the blog of the same name will both be presenting workshops. Elisabeth Remy Johnson will present a multimedia program called “Gateways to Creativity” that is very interesting. We also have a stunning lineup of chamber music with the Fire Pink Trio, Duo Scorpio, Feiner Musicke, and others.

HC: Each conference has a distinct local flavor. What are you doing to give it a unique Atlanta feel?

JW: Southern hospitality is alive and well in Atlanta, and we’d like everyone who attends or presents at the conference to feel that spirit of graciousness. There will also be a Sunday morning worship concert featuring Rhett Barnwell, Angi Bemiss, Paula Fagerberg, Sam Milligan, and Frank Voltz.

HC: When planning a large conference like this one, what criteria do you consider in choosing the lineup?

JW: We started with a mission statement and the four themes to focus our choices: inspiring the next generation, focus on pedagogy, remembering and honoring our past, and the best of the Southeast. We are grateful that we received so many fine proposals, which made putting the program together much easier.

HC: Why should harpists travel to Atlanta this summer for the AHS Conference?

JW: This conference features several hands-on opportunities for harpists of all ages and ability levels. We have an Honors Ensemble for advanced high school and college-aged harpists, a Youth Ensemble workshop for younger students of any ability, and an Adult Ensemble that will rehearse throughout the conference. We also have masterclass opportunities with Susann McDonald, Naoko Yoshino, Laura Sherman, and Remy van Kesteren. The content is exceptional, travel to ATL is easy and we’ll do our best to make sure y’all have a great time.

HC: Tell us about the venue and the accommodations.

JW: Daytime events will take place at the Emory Conference Center, which is set on a 26-acre forest preserve and offers recently renovated rooms at a modest cost ($135 per night). Emory University is adjacent where dorm rooms are available ($48.50 single occupancy/$39.50 double). Evening concerts will be at the Schwartz Center and Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church on the Emory campus. Restaurants are within walking distance of all of the events, and there’s an organic grocery store a block away from the conference center. The atmosphere is relaxing and retreat-like, and yet only 20 minutes away from downtown.

HC: How can harpists register for the conference?

JW: Registration information is available on the conference website www.ahsconference.org. The deadline for early registration is April 1, and the rates are $235 for adults, $110 for students, and $110 for family members.

HC: Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about the conference?

JW: Please register and reserve your room early! You may also want to plan to stay a day late or come early to enjoy the sites of Atlanta. From the Georgia Aquarium (largest in the nation), to the Coca-Cola museum, CNN Center, historical sites, and great restaurants, Atlanta is the place to be this summer. •

Visit ahsconference.org for complete details and registration information.

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