Community college enrichment course

Posted In: Teaching the Harp

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    Angela Biggs on #82666

    Hi all,

    I submitted a proposal to teach an Introduction to the Harp course as a non-credit enrichment class at my local community college, and my proposal was accepted today. I’m desperate to find a harp community that’s less than 80 minutes from my home, and at this point I think the only way that will happen is if I build one myself!

    The class will probably consist of about three contact hours or so. I plan to cover the parts of the harp, a brief history of the harp, a survey of the types of harp and their differences (lever, pedal, Paraguayan, etc.), depending on the available AV equipment perhaps some audio examples of harp music, tuning, seated posture, hand position, and of course some contact with a harp! Since it will certainly be a small class, I’ll likely have one harp for everyone to share. We’ll at least do some glissandi; depending on the musical level of the participants, I’m hoping to try some basic chords and progressions (I IV V I). . . and maybe more. . . it won’t hurt to dream. 🙂

    Can you think of anything else that would be appropriate to an introductory harp class? Please keep in mind that my intent in teaching this is to expose the people in a very non-musical and uneducated city to the beauty of the harp. I want to make it interesting enough that they’ll want to learn more, but not overwhelm them with all the fascinating details that are more appropriate to actual study of the instrument.

    I’ll be teaching this class sometime next spring. Many thanks in advance for your input!


    Philippa mcauliffe on #82667


    Angela Biggs on #82668

    Georgina, that’s a super idea! I built one of those for my niece, who was 3 at the time – but I wouldn’t have thought of that. Thanks! 🙂

    Jessica A on #82669

    You could suggest outside reading of fun harp books like Harpo Speaks and Sylvia Clark’s book, The Lovely Wedding.

    patricia-jaeger on #82670

    Angela, for 16 years I taught a “night school class” to begin to play harp,

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #82671

    I tried a course like this, and all the students really wanted was a chance to play, get an idea of how to play, and to listen to me play. They had very little intellectual interest in it.

    Angela Biggs on #82672

    Thank you Jessica, that’s another good idea! If I use a handout packet, I can include a sheet listing websites, videos, books, performers and recordings of further interest. Also resources for purchasing new and used harps. . .

    ::rubs hands together with glee:: This means I can do all kinds of harp-reading and -listening and write it off as a business expense! lol

    Angela Biggs on #82673

    Thank you Patricia, I’ve sent an email to the FHJ “past issues” contact and I’ll see what he has to say. 🙂

    Angela Biggs on #82674

    Thanks for bringing that up Saul, because it’s something I’ve been thinking about. In my voice studio, I’ve had students who actively go after every bit of information they can acquire, students who are willing to soak up everything I have to tell them about anything related to singing, students who just want to know the absolute basic mechanics of how to sing so that they can get up in front of people and show off, and even a husband and wife who wouldn’t believe a single thing I said about anything whatsoever. (I’m still wondering why they even bothered.) I anticipate a similar mix here — but this is the first time I’m doing this particular type of teaching, so I don’t really know what to expect.

    I’m planning to start the class by diving right into playing the harp, so that we can wear off the edge of the desire right away. I’m also considering dropping the class time to two hours instead of three, in case all anyone wants to do is play. If it turns out that a few people are interested in more than just playing and listening, I can still have packets of information available on further reading/research/resources.

    On the other hand, I want to infect them with my excitement so that the harp virus really starts spreading in this city. More time and more information might be good for that. 🙂 I’m hoping that this will start to gel when I begin my lesson planning.

    Pat Eisenberger on #82675

    Angela – this is the neatest idea I’ve heard in a long time! I also live in a community where the harp is completely alien. (We only have bands in our schools.) When I’ve played in public people are shocked and enchanted. It’s wonderful to introduce them to this beautiful instrument. Please continue to post your experiences with this.

    Angela Biggs on #82676

    Well, I’ve started my lesson plan, and so far I’ve come up with one game which was inspired by the Amazon preview of “Harp Games” by Lisa Lamb. (I subsequently ordered the book!) I’m going to have the students come up with as many words as they can using only the letters in the musical scale; they can use each letter as many times as you want, so baggage” would be a valid word, for example. Then everyone will take a turn at the harp to play the words they came up with. Students who aren’t sitting at the harp will be invited to play the performer’s words mentally, using a labeled illustration of the harp that will be on a board at the front of the class. And while everyone’s working on their word lists, they’ll be called to the harp one at a time to for a hands-on lesson in tuning.

    I’m assuming the class will have a board. Once I get a full draft of the lesson plan, I’ll have to check on the resources that will be available to me 🙂

    jack-shuttleworth on #82677

    Hi Angela – I co-run a community harp group in England. We managed to get charitable grants to buy harps to hire out for a class, and it has lead to a great community of players locally. A dead-easy first experience we use is to set the levers to pentatonic (D & A levers if tuned to Eb) so everyone can do what they like and it all sounds great together. Our teacher Elizabeth also wrote and arranged a series of tunes for learners from scratch, available free from our website

    I’ve done talks on harps and love to bring in the Robert Ap Huw manuscripts (which look so beautiful), especially Paul Dooley’s playing of the muisic – almost like Philip Glass. I also talk about the Harp of Ur, our oldest known string instrument (4000BC). Ayub Ogada opened the Live 8 concert with a reproduction of the Harp of Ur, then played his modern nyatiti, which is almost identical.

    Angela Biggs on #82678

    Thanks for taking the time to chime in, Jack! The grant thing is a great idea – and I recently met someone who has experience with that kind of thing, which makes it an even better one. 🙂 Love the idea about the pentatonic scale, and I’ve also bookmarked your group’s website in case there’s enough interest and I can create an actual harp class later on. The Harp of Ur wasn’t in my history lesson, so I’ve added that too. Thanks so much!

    patricia-jaeger on #82679


    In an early copy of Folk Harp Journal Mr. Robbie Robinson (who started the magazine in 1973) had about 5 pages filled with many sketches showing the evolution of the pedal harp of today, beginning with the harp of Ur and Egyptian harps from hieroglyphics, through many changes and ending with the 47-string pedal harp. He even included the Vulcan Harp played by Spock in the Star Trek television series, for humor! I photocopied those pages and have connected them into a frieze that I showed to my night class students, and also every harp student since that time, to give them a perspective they might not otherwise have. See if Phyllis Robinson (Robinson’s Harp Shop in California) still has those pages, or if they exist in the archives of Folk Harp Journal, if you also think it is worthwhile for students to know. If I were to make photocopies to send you, they may not be as clear, being “second generation” copies that successively lose ink in reprinting.

    Angela Biggs on #82680

    Thanks, Patricia, that sounds great! I just contacted Robinson’s; perhaps if they don’t have the article, they may know the date of publication so that I can get it from the FHJ. 🙂

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