I’m interested in hearing in particular from students of all ages(8 or 9 through college) as well as adult beginners. What exactly are you aiming for in your harp studies? Please be as specific as possible. Tell me how much time you’ve been studying and if you feel that you have seen progress towards the goal you have in mind. Has your goal changed since you started studying harp? Do you feel that your teacher understands what your goals are? Is he/she in agreement? Lots of questions I know. But I’m interested in hearing in as much detail as you can give what got you started on the harp and what you ultimate expectations are. Thanks.
I am 50, and have been taking lessons since last June. I used to be employed as a public school music teacher, with piano and vocals as my focus.
I stumbled into William Rees’ Harps on Main by accident and fell in love with their 36 string lever harp. I hope to get good enough to play for weddings
I don’t think it changes that much with experience. My goals are still to make recordings, to get through performances without audible mistakes or glitches, not any different than when I was young, just on another level, perhaps. When I started, my goal was to be a concert artist, to tour, perhaps join a chamber orchestra, to teach, make recordings, be known. In those days, it all seemed possible. Before Reagan. It all changed by 1984. When I was growing up, one could see recitals by artists like Segovia, Rubinstein, Heifetz, De Los Angeles, Sutherland, Menuhin, even Casals, perhaps, every year, depending where you lived. Sol Hurok was still a visible presence. It was such a different world then. Classical music was on television all the time. I remember seeing people like Perlman (young), Roberta Peters, Jan Peerce, Robert Merrill, and always Marilyn Horne on the Tonight Show. And I’m talking about the 1960s and 70s, even into the 80s. That was a golden age, really.
I’m an adult who’s been playing 3-5 years. I mostly play for myself at home, but I also might like to someday play in a community band or orchestra. The kind that plays fairly light repertoire with a casual schedule, not the hardcore kind where most of the members have studied since childhood. And casual chamber music, perhaps playing in church every now and then (I currently don’t attend any church, but if I did I’d probably want to play for them – I used to play in church orchestra and had a good time until the pastor forgot we were volunteers and started committing us to evening concerts and special post-service services without asking — come to think of it he committed the paid organist and pianist to without asking and without paying them extra, but I digress).
My goals vary a bit, mostly on whether to stick with lever harp music or get a pedal harp. This is because I have other goals, mostly financial such as saving for a home downpayment and keeping a decent reserve for emergencies, that aren’t completely in line with the goal of owning a pedal harp, at least in the short term. But basically I want to continue improving, playing interesting and challening music, while maybe finding some opportunities to socialize and play with others= musicians in a casual setting. And I want to do work a bit on improvisation and reading lead sheets, both to play popular standards (Cole Porter etc.) and because flexibility can help when playing in small groups with whatever music is handy.
I’ve had two teachers (due to a move – both were great in case any are reading!). I was pretty clear up front with my goals, and I think both understood pretty well and did a good job of teaching with those goals in mind.
As usual, I’ve spent some time thinking about what my goal in taking lessons as a beginning harpist really is.
As a young musician, I had the chance to make a career of performance. I turned my back on that choice, closed the door, and became something else, very scientific and left brain, and stopped being a musician.
In all the years of working in my other field, I lived with a total internal commitment that at some point in my life, I would return to music and be a full time musician again.
The fallacy, of course, was that the person I was at 23 was far different from the person I was…..well, a lot later, at retirement. I could no longer do the things i had once done, and the scholars who had been my teachers were all dead and gone- no references, no reminiscence of what had once been, a sense of being without a way to get back.
I think the harp must have been as far from anything I would have considered as it could have been. Still, some absurd configuration of Karmic influences brought me an outstandingly gifted teacher, and then, totally unexpectedly, another large lump of Fate brought me the opportunity to fund the purchase of an instrument or two.
So I’ve been at this now for almost three years. It is SO new to me- this was an instrument that we never learned about in school. Orchestral parts I’d never heard before have suddenly emerged from the sounds I hear in concerts and recordings, and became meaningful and recognizable as harp notes. I hear harpish melodies that I want to write down and replay and make into compositions to play for others.
The goal is actually to see if I can use the harp to make the kinds of sounds that satisfy my passion for music. There have been a few pieces in the three years that although simple have done so. Those have been very heady times, listening to myself and feeling my fingers reach some little almost forgotten segment of my memory and reawaken those thoughts of years ago when I was a real musician.
There are times when I think it can never happen again (December was musically bereft this year) but then there are times when I think it might. The bright spots keep me from giving up. Very slowly, even as old as I am, I’m finding some respect among musicians whom I myself respect. I will be playing in a chamber ensemble class in the spring semester, always a good way to develop finger technique, my Achilles’ heel.
Part of my goal is replacing my despair at never having enough technique with the sense that yes, I am getting better with busy finger music, and enjoying it more and being less afraid of it. Even with the finger curse, it’s still a grand ride.
Sherry- building technique is an ongoing journey, and the ultimate goal is rarely reached. All of us at every level wish we had more technique than we have. I have a short wish list of pieces that I’ll probably never be able to play because they are killer difficult and make technical demands that are just not part of my repertoire.
I’m really impressed at how serious you all are about the harp and how you manage to fit it in with so much else going on in your lives. Good work!
By 1984, the funding for the arts was declining seriously, and many groups began folding, such as American Philharmonic Orchestra, Affiliate Artists, and later, the National Endowment for the Arts Touring Program. Public Television (before cable) stopped consistently broadcasting serious culture, and the networks by that time had stopped altogether, except for a rare appearance on the Tonight Show by a violinist or singer, and those declined in frequency until they were extremely rare by the time Johnny Carson retired. Cable television attempted to broadcast culture but gave up after just a few years. Bravo, for example, began as an all arts channel, but now is a no-arts channel. Other attempts have failed to make enough money and changed or shut down as far as I know. They are also not available in all cities. A large number of people were casually exposed to the classical arts through television and radio, and maintained a relationship, going a few times a year to concerts to hear favorite pieces or performers. Those people have disappeared with the programming, it seems to me. The FCC required cultural programming by the networks until cable came along or thereabouts, and not requiring any was a cultural disaster. As long as the Republicans were in office, post-Reagan, the funding for the arts declined. Ironic, that a former actor would have that effect on the country, but he did. The spirit became meaner and greedier, and you can see that reflected in television programming. The warm and kind comedies like the Mary Tyler Moore show gave way to ever-harsher humor, ridicule and gross insensitivity, until you have South Park and the Simpsons; Desperate Housewives and insanity of reality television.
I was discussing the Angelaires recently with Liz Ilku, a longtime member, and how many adventures they had, and what a great series it would make. I said, it would work better as a reality show, with all the possibilities for backbiting and so on, and she said they always got along beautifully. Well, there goes today’s entertainment values…
We can always be proud of our roles as harpists making the world a more beautiful place to live. It is more important than ever.
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