being true to one’s self

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    Thank you for letting me join your ranks as a contributing member. This “coffee break” looked like the appropriate section of the forum for esoteric dialog, though I’m partial to green tea. I’m also the engineer-guy looking for a destroyed pedal harp in another thread.

    I don’t like talking about myself much, but decided to after reading about a young lady’s desire to play harp so strongly she built her own from logs. Great story but forgot her name.

    My passion for pedal harps began as a teenager and progressed from there, having heard them ranging from movie soundtracks to my father’s albums. “Dad” is Tommy James of the Shondells, whom I love and respect, but his was kind of a Cinderella story from afar having scored his first hit record, divorcing Mom and moving to NY shortly after my birth. We’ve always been close though. I dreamt of following in his footsteps as a musician and songwriter, but my career path veered into design engineering (another passion) that began professionally at age 15 and continues today. A degree would have been nice but I had to quit high school and go to work to help support my mom after we escaped from an abusive step father. Needless to say I’m self-taught in most things, and have been in professional engineering now for 28 years.

    Concurrently I’m a very skilled drummer, keyboardist and songwriter, but can’t sing worth a crap, preferring to be the “brains” behind the band rather than the front-man. Unlike dad, my musical leanings are more toward heavy metal and progressive rock, though always with melodic structure (Rush, Dream Theater meets Enya). I also developed a technique for playing keyboard and drums simultaneously, but that’s beyond the scope of this writing. My desire to learn Pedal Harp is almost primal, and wish to integrate an acoustic/electric harp with my drum kit. Much of the material I write is orchestrated, and I look forward to the blisters and calluses as the inevitable part of learning, study, practice and sheer determination.

    Oddly, I’m contemplating a career change and moving to Chicago. I’ve contacted Jason A. at Lyon & Healy about an apprenticeship for learning harp regulation. A background in mechanical engineering and physics would certainly lend itself there. A change would be welcome anyway since Clinton’s NAFTA & Bush’s saber swath have beheaded most engineering opportunities in the Midwest. Bitter? You bet. Down & out? Hardly. The species that survive are those that can capitalize on what comes naturally. It makes one wonder how Darwin would analogize economic survival. Those whom adapt are the fittest?

    I’m recently divorced (thank God!) and have been successfully running a freelance engineering business designing large commercial buildings from my efficiency apartment. I specialize in designing weird, curved, twisted, warped & angular metal facades. Unfortunately my main “bread and butter” client was taken over by a person that is blinded by “perceived” profit. I and others went broke designing a project we never got paid for. Long story short I couldn’t pay rent, electricity shut off on my birthday no less. By the time I could afford to rent a truck, everything I owned had already been hauled off to the landfill. Recording studio, valuable antiques, family mementos, computers, synthesizers, wardrobe, diary, power tools… everything. As of now my only worldly possessions are 4 dress shirts, 2 pair of jeans, shoes and a Bic lighter. Again I say: Bitter? You bet. Down & out? Hardly.

    I’m fortunate in many ways in spite of circumstance. You learn quickly who your friends are, and I’ve been blessed with many, and meet new ones almost daily. Losing everything is almost a “liberating” experience. All the stuff you couldn’t live without does not a life make. In the short span of time we exist here, those whom I consider mentors realize the futility of “wealth.” We tend to quantify, label, digitize and assign value to all things. Heck, it’s what I do as an engineer. But when the façade is stripped away we’re all pink and naked. Our personal integrity is the core of our being. It’s why I still tear up at the end of the movie Saving Private Ryan when he attempts to justify his existence by asking his family if he’s been a good person.

    I’m getting long winded and sidetracked. Y’all might see me on QVC or Home Shopping Network in 9 weeks pitching one of many of my inventions. Doing a deal with a local manufacturer and giving QVC 50% for airtime. More to the story, but “rags to riches” always makes for interesting tabloid fodder.

    Back to Harps, I’m very serious about mechanically digitizing a destroyed pedal harp. Condition doesn’t matter as long as the action doesn’t resemble wadded tinfoil. (See the thread in the Harps & Accessories section for details.) Please forward any leads to me at spacescapes3d[at] Would have replaced the [at] with @ but too many bots harvest email addresses from forums just to tell me my penis needs enlarging or my girlfriend is unsatisfied… Proof positive they don’t know me very well.

    Summary: I’m a top-notch Rock-N-Roll/Heavy Metal drummer with a sincere passion to learn Concert Harp and willing to take a long-term apprenticeship to do so. I want to use the chromatic capabilities and techniques of harping and apply them in creative ways. Where many stereotype the harp as the “preferred drone of angels”, I want to go in a totally different direction. Pure beauty is nice, but sometimes an ugly monster with 6” fangs leaves a sonic impression. Is it crazy to want something so beautiful as a harp to sound threatening? Why not? Movie score writers use the same 12 notes.

    This letter was longer than I intended it to be. Nonetheless I thank you for the open discussion from which I’ve learned a lot. I’m extremely grateful.


    Brian Jackson/James


    Brian, go to and see and hear Deborah Henson-Conant. She does not play like that “preferred drone of angels” that you mention.


    Are you familiar with Joanna Newsom?

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