I gave a harp demonstration this evening to a group of about 20 string students in a local youth orchestra. Ages ranged from 10 to 17. Thank you to everyone who posted something about student programs – the archives were invaluable. In case someone else makes a presentation, I wanted to share a few tips I learned from Onita Sanders and
others along with my experience:
Make the presentation interactive: I brought the harp in and had a couple students help take the transport cover off, set up the bench and music stand. I asked in anyone would be bored to sleep and one student raised his hand. I threw the harp cover on the floor and suggested he go to sleep so we could continue. Much to everyone’s delight, the kid jumped in the cover. I asked the older kids to carry him away so they cheerfully picked up the cover and carried the student around the room. It was great fun and really engaged the boys. Lots of photos were taken.
I then talked a little bit about the harp – that the one I have is used in a symphony orchestra but there are lots of other types of harps etc. I then showed them what is in my harp bag. I brought a bunch of old strings and passed them around (thank you archives) at that time. Boys in particular like to keep their hands active.
Following that, I figured out who the wise guy was in the group and had him come up to demonstrate middle C. While he walked up, I showed the group the red string of middle C as I played it. I asked the student to play middle C. It was a half step off – I had quietly moved the pedal. A couple tries later, I asked the youngest to come up and he had no problem playing middle C. The older student tried a few more times and the red string everywhere on the harp was either Cb or C# – he just couldn’t figure it out. He about fell over when I played B# with middle C:) That lead to a pedal demonstration and lots of laughs at his expense before that.
Tell students what they are going to hear: That was excellent advice from the archives which I followed. I played the usual Song in the Night but the big hit was “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” arranged by Frank Voltz. The students knew the song from Sunday school. I had them sing it as I played the basic melody. I told them to listen to all the ways a simple melody could be played on the harp. They loved the walking bass and variety in the music. It can be played in a lever hard with some modifications on the last page. The third piece I played was Two Guitars by Linda Wood. The students liked that a lot, too. It can be played on lever harp. It’s short and showy.
I use the iPad rather than sheet music now. A big mistake I made was not making sure the foot pedal was synced. I should have done that as soon as I walked in or just outside the room. It would not work even though it did at home, and I didn’t want to fool around with it. Instead, I asked for a page tapper, and I had quite a few volunteers. The students had never seen music on an iPad, and they were fascinated.
Of course, all the students wanted to try the harp. I set a glissando and let each student have a turn. I suggested they put their hands or heads on the soundboard to feel the vibrations as other students played. That gave students something to do while they waited their turn to play. There were 3 or 4 students engaged with the soundboard all during that time. i changed the gliss key every couple students. Thankfully, the Salvi harp has a polyurethane finish so I just wiped the harp clean when I came home. I had a great time sharing my harp with students who enjoyed the experience.