I am starting to think about college and am exploring the idea of majoring in harp performance. For those of you who did, how did you know it was right for you? For those of you who did not, why did you decide against this particular major? Thank you!
I didn’t know I would major in music until my sophomore year. It’s not easy to know sometimes. Can you ever imagine your life without playing your harp? Do you feel like you have the talent, the drive and the resources to make it your life? You can study music and go on to another profession in graduate school. But you can’t replace these years for studying music, ever. How much have you studied so far? How advanced are you? What level of school are you likely to get into? Have you played for any advanced teachers? What does your teacher think? You should aim as high as you can, maybe higher if you underestimate yourself. You should have the best teacher and school that is possible. If you just want to enjoy the harp, then pick a school with majors that allow you enough time for lessons and practice, ie. not a science or studio arts.
There were schools I might have attended, but I never even tried because I didn’t know what was possible. One can work one’s way up step-by-step, but it is much harder nowadays than it used to be. So better to commit to music now. Can you live with it or without it? Try reading the Harvard Dictionary of Music (all of it) and see how interesting it is. That will tell you something.
At the time that I entered university, I could not imagine myself doing anything other than music as a career, and was lucky enough to be able to make a good living as a harpist. I know a lot of successful professionals in other fields who got their Bachelor of Music, then went on to a post-graduate degree in a different field (such as education). When you choose your university, think about your future options and how that university can equip you. Some put more emphasis on academic subjects than others, or require different types of electives. First and foremost, choose the place with the right harp teacher and performing opportunities for you.
I did not major in harp. I first played a harp in college. So I never saw it as a viable option for me. Although I did think about majoring in music, but decided to go another route. I didn’t see myself as being talented enough to “make it” in music. I wasn’t looking very far ahead back then.
The questions I would ask myself if I were in your shoes:
Is playing/performing/teaching harp what I want to do when I grow up?
Am I okay with spending the next 4 years largely playing pieces chosen by someone else, or do I only want to play what I want to play?
Do I love it enough to spend the next four+ years doing practically nothing else? Will having to play harp make me not want to do it?
Can I be serious about it (without being too serious)? In other words, will being immersed in all things harp make me feel ‘overrun’ or will it be a joy to be surrounded by something I love so much?
What else am I interested in? What other gifts and talents do I have?
What are my life goals? Would it be a better fit to major in something else and keep harp on the side, or as a hobby?
Do I have patience with other people–future clients (“think bridezilla” once in a while) or demanding parents who have put a lot of money into their child’s musical education. On the other hand, what wonderful friendships will I find through music?
What do I want to do with harp? Can I do that while majoring in something else, or is a music degree required to accomplish those goals?
You may have other, more relevant questions to ask yourself.
To me, it seems the life of a musician is time consuming and you have to be dedicated to it, heart and soul. But it seems also to be very personally rewarding. You really are giving your audience a part of yourself when you perform or teach. Will that be fulfilling?
All that being said, you may think I’m trying to discourage you. Quite the contrary….at this point in my life I wish I had done more with it earlier. I wish I had taken a class in teaching music. I love my harp. I dream of the day I will finally buy a pedal harp. I want to teach lessons but don’t feel prepared for that yet. My first love is my children, which will always take priority over harp. But they won’t be living with me forever, and I think harp will fill the void, so to speak, for me.
Let’s look at this from a different angle (which happens to be mine). I majored as an undergraduate in Russian, then proceeded to an MBA in quantitative finance. Thirty years later I fell in love with the harp at age 60ish, so the question one might wish to ask oneself is this: “Do I love the harp enough to devote my life to it?”
Well, I do now but it’s a bit late to look at a performing career!
This is not to say that you will actually end up devoting your life to it if you choose it as your major. But if you think you do at this time….that is an pretty important consideration. Consider too that you may not necessarily choose the pedal harp as your instrument. Examples abound, among them Harper Tasche (a virtuoso on the cross strung) and Alfredo Ortiz (who was first a dentist).
In the late fifties, when I was in college, my major was engineering and that changed to physics. I thought physics because I hoped to be ready
when the scientific men came. A higher power was obviously present.
I played trombone and onetime, a 3/4 grand harp painted silver was present backstage. In the quietness, I tried plucking a string, and beyond the
cheap looking paint, the sound came out like a great abundance of music.
I never thought I’d play one, but it came to me gradually after I was 40,
and was no longer in technical work. At the age of 58, my 36th instrument
was a 19 string harp 42″ tall with 10″ wide sound box. It was like none that I’d ever seen, but I said why not?
It was a simple triangular design, and I spent many coffee breaks with a calculator and notebook figuring how many good strings I could have on a triangular harp, and what angle would be the best.
My daughter has just stated making college visits. She doesn’t think she wants to major in harp but has been looking at schools that offer another major she is interested in and a Music Minor in performance harp. If it turns out that she loves it she can switch to a Music Major after she’s had some experience at the college level. I think it’s important to pick a school that offers several options that interest you. Students often change majors.
I have a few degrees in harp performance! I knew going into my auditions that I wanted to major in music, and auditioned almost exclusively at conservatories. Choosing a career in music is not something to idly stroll into… it has to be something in your blood… in your heart… something you know you cannot live without doing.
With that being said there are lots of options for people who aren’t sure if they want to go into music!!
1. Go to a state school: you will be much less likely to have to take out thousands in student loans!!
2. Go to a school that offers dual programs: at Eastman there were MANY harpists who chose to also major in other areas at the University of Rochester
3. Minor in music: You can always start out minoring and then move to a major if you so decide!!
With all of these options though I can give one major piece of advice: go take a few lessons… meet a few teachers at schools that you are interested in. You might just find a teacher that captures your imagination (I know I did!) and pushes you in one or the other direction!
Good luck, and keep on harping!!
- You must be logged in to reply to this topic.