Universities and conseratories with the best harp programs

Posted In: Young Harpists

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    laura-stokes on #166940

    I am a jounior in high school and I have ben playing harp for nearly 9 years. I want to continue studying harp in university and I was wondering if you ( the harpists of the world) have any suggestions of where I should go.

    barbara-brundage on #166941

    >My one issue is that I prefer not to play Solzedo technique and it seems that amost all American Harp proffessors teach this method. thanks!

    Well, you know, Juilliard and Eastman, for instance, are usually not considered very shabby, and they are not Salzedo schools.

    barbara-brundage on #166942

    My point is that there are many, many schools both conservatories and liberal arts colleges in the US that are not Salzedo, and a few that offer teachers of both methods.

    carl-swanson on #166943

    Laura- You’re completely wrong in saying that almost all American harp professors teach Salzedo method. Just to name a few who don’t: Suzanne McDonald at Indiana University, Nancy Allen at Juilliard, Debbie Hofman at Manhatten School of Music, Susan Jolles at Mannes, Emily Mitchell at New York University and SUNY Purchase, Barbara Allen at NYU, Carol Mclaughlin someplace in Arizona, Cynthia Price-Glynn at Boston Conservatory, Gillian Bennet at Cincinnatti University, Ann Yeung at Illinois University, Ruth Inglefield at Peabody,Sarah Bullen at Roosevelt University JoAnn Turovsky at University of Southern California, and Susan Allen at CalArts, just to name a few. There are many more.

    unknown-user on #166944

    I would be curious to know why you don’t want to learn Salzedo technique if you don’t know it. I mean, how do you know you don’t want to know it if you don’t know it? Unfortunately, at the present time, there are very few leading schools offering Salzedo-based instruction, which is not good, to my way of thinking. What is your reason for wanting to study here, what will you gain that you won’t gain by studying in Britain, I am wondering.

    unknown-user on #166945

    P.S., I don’t teach Solzedo technique, but I do teach Saulzedo!

    barbara-brundage on #166946

    Well, regardless of whether one is a Salzedo harpist, French school harpist, German technique harpist, or whatever, I can understand not wanting to make huge changes in basic technique when you’re already at conservatory level.

    And I can totally understand wanting to go to another country to study just for the heck of it, too. 🙂

    carl-swanson on #166947

    I think an important step for any student checking out a new teacher is to ask them point blank what their opinion is of the student’s technique and what the teacher would do with that technique if the student were to study with that person. If the teacher says that you’re doing everything wrong and you will have to start over(which I’ve heard of, I’m not making that up) then I don’t think that teacher should be considered. If the teacher says, after you’ve played something for them, that you have some problem areas that need work, and she can explain clearly why they are problems and give a compelling reason why you will have to make some changes, then I would consider that teacher. I would not suggest under any circumstance just taking pot luck and signing on to study with a teacher without knowing what you are getting yourself into.

    barbara-brundage on #166948

    > If the teacher says that you’re doing everything wrong and you will have to start over(which I’ve heard of, I’m not making that up) then I don’t think that teacher should be considered

    Not sure about this as a blanket statement, Carl. I had to start over at Eastman and it was definitely the best way for me, although intensely frustrating at the time.

    laura-smithburg-byrne on #166949

    You have asked an important question that many students need to consider before choosing a university harp program. Although I teach the Salzedo method I was originally a Grandjany method student and feel I have a great understanding of both methods. More than half of my students come to me from other teachers of a different method. When students audition for me at Duke or UNC, I ask them to play a piece that best represents their abilities and then one they are “working on”. I then ask them what they are looking for in a teacher and what they want to do with their harp studies at the university.
    Separate from their audition, I encourage students to take a lesson with me to get an idea of my expectations and teaching style. While in the lesson I then get to see their learning ability and flexibility. I would never require a student to “start over” with me but would assess their strengths and weaknesses and offer them my honest opinion and suggestions. I would also give them an idea of my expectations and what opportunities they could have at the university. There are many fine teachers in the USA who teach different harp methods and some universities have more to offer than others including $’s. Consider your ultimate goal as a harpist and also what other opportunities you are looking for after you have completed your degree. Best wishes to you as you consider your options.

    laura-stokes on #166950

    Thank you all for your input! I am sorry

    unknown-user on #166951

    The question of “starting over” raises the question of, to what degree and for how long? I have been through the process of making adjustments little by little over a two-year period, and that was hard on my body. I think it might be more far, in changing teachers and situations, to take the time out to spend a few months just on technique and position, and to get it working right before tackling repertoire. Then one doesn’t have to keep “harping” on this or that, which is a drag for the student. I do think one has to be up front and honest with students whenever possible, and to let them know your expectations and rules, so they aren’t learned by omission and commission. Students who don’t have a really good foundation, and just add on layers to it, to my ears, never really reach excellence because the foundation is lacking. So, to not start them over in some sense, is grossly unfair. It depends how systematic your approach is. And of course, it depends on the student.

    Elizabeth Volpé Bligh on #166952

    In an ideal world, it would be the best choice to have a solid foundation of technique before tackling repertoire. However, in many cases, this choice is not available, usually because of money issues. It is still possible to polish and adjust technique while learning pieces. The important thing is to work on studies and exercises every day so that eventually the muscles are trained to work in the most efficient and relaxed way. When researching a school, I agree that it is a really good idea to contact the teacher and get a sense of their philosophy, expectations, what method they teach and whether they are willing to work with students from any school of harp-playing, etc.

    carl-swanson on #166953

    Barbara- I’m sure there are cases where the student has so many bad habits, or simply has no technique because of the very bad instruction that he/she got that there is nothing left to do but start over. But the new teacher had better be able to explain in a way the student can understand exactly why what the student is doing now is wrong and why the changes the teacher says are needed will be an improvement. I have heard of many instances- and I won’t mention the school of playing this involved-where an advanced student no less auditioned for the school and the teacher said “You’re doing everything wrong and you are going to have to start over from the begining.” I can name specific teachers who did this on a regular basis and I can name several students they did it to. One of them came to the teacher at a very advanced level and the teacher said this. That student two years later won an audition for a major American orchestra and is now in a major European orchestra.

    laura-smithburg-byrne on #166954

    I have to say these are all valid and important points for students to consider.
    I agree with Saul and Carl that there must be a solid foundation. There are always weaknesses in certain areas and I am honest with the students right from the start. Sometimes the students have to start over in certain fundamental points of technique and develop a disciplined manner of practice that will lead to successful performing. This often takes enormous effort and commitment.
    This can include a complete re-learning of hand position and finger articulation, and for some an entirely new approach to harp study.
    This can be done without dishonoring their previous efforts or their previous teachers. I agree with Elizabeth. You must be honest in your assessment of their abilities so they can find their enthusiasm based in reality and set their goals accordingly. Are they physically, mentally, and psychologically capable
    of the many skills and strengths they will need to be successful.
    Another point to consider are the realistic opportunities that may be available to this student. Do they have dreams of harp competitions, orchestra jobs, a music education career or just want to play well in addition to another college degree?
    There are 13-14 weeks per semester including a jury and the time/practice quotient is a fact of reality. How much work will they or can they do in a semester much less a four year plan? How dedicated are they to their harp career aspirations and do they really have the talent, the drive and the ambition?
    The music world is a tough business and often unfair. The most talented harpists don’t always get the job because of other reasons that have nothing to do with talent or experience. But you cannot kill talent as it is recognized by everyone else regardless of a temporary unfair situation. If one door is temporarily shut, then another one will open that inevitably leads to the top. I prepare my students for these realities and make them aware of how to compete and improve their odds of success. I share my professional experiences with them and they learn from me as I learned from my teacher and my friends in the harp world. As an instructor at two major universities, I feel compelled to be very clear about my expectations and what it will take for them to become a high caliber player.
    They need to know where they stand and how tough it is out there.

    Many years ago I had a college student who was extremely talented in both harp and science. She had an opportunity for a fellowship with NASA to become an astrophysicist but had dreams of a harp career. I explained to her that she could study harp in addition to her work at NASA but the realities of a music career needed to be faced. To be so brilliant and talented is a rare combination, not everyone has those options. She chose the science career and her father thanked me profusely. I have also had the pleasure of teaching students and watching them blossom and pursue their dreams with great success. They also thanked me for teaching them how to play well and survive financially in the real world. My responsibility to them is to prepare them for the realities of a harp career and send them into the world as prepared as possible for the many challenges they will face.

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