Why do you play the harp?

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    Can you recall the source of inspiration that led you to play the harp? Was it from seeing someone play the harp when you were a child…or even later in your life? Or, was it perhaps seeing a harp being played at an event or in a movie?

    I know some of us recall the actual moment of our inspiration—that moment in which we were struck by the beauty of this instrument. If such a thread has not been explored recently, I thought it might be interesting to hear from you fellow harpists about your inspiration—what led you to play the harp?

    Best regards,

    Rod C.


    I can’t say that I had a moment of inspiration – my love of the harp came later, after I’d been playing for several years.


    Hi Rod,

    My love of the harp came when I was a little thing.


    It first caught my attention when I conducted a choral group in the Rutter Dancing Day Cycle for a church where I was organist-choirmaster. After that, I asked the harpist of our area symphony to play a solo concert as part of a concert series at the church. She opened with John Thomas’ “The Minstrel’s Adieu to His Native Land.” I was absolutely transported by the instrument (a gold 23), the piece and the entire concert. Then I was truly hooked and looked into starting lessons in mid-life and getting an instrument (ouch!). It took about 3 years during which time this forum was enormously helpful. I’m now studying with the harpist who played that concert. I recently started working on “The Minstrel’s Adieu.” My lesson is my favorite hour of each week. My practice time is the best part of each day – if I had 4-5 hours a day, I would do it.

    I’m having the greatest time.



    Like Kay, my inspiration came from Harpo Marx. In hindsight, I remember the actual moment of inspiration. I was watching the I Love Lucy Show; Harpo was on the episode and he played the harp. (Up until then, I must not have known much about the Marx Brothers or that Harpo was a harpist.) But, I remember watching in awe. I was amazed by the fact that this clown was transforming into

    Pat Eisenberger

    It was the autumn of the year 2000, and my husband and I were on our annual visit to the
    Michigan Renaissance Festival. It was the weekend of our 25th Wedding
    Anniversary. We were spending the day browsing through the shops,
    watching the shows, and listening to music. The day was warm, clear and
    bright and the atmosphere of the festival was colorful. We were walking
    down a lane of shops when the breeze blew a gust of magic in my

    The “magic” came to me in the form of a song played
    on a Celtic harp. I had no choice but to follow it. I sat on a bench outside of the harpmaker’s shop and could not move as long as the harper played. I have been living under an enchantment ever since.


    I was a student at the University of Illinois in Elementary Education (I got over that).

    Karen Johns

    My first encounter with a harp was at a home in Tucson, AZ. I was playing my flute as an accompaniment to a meditation series and the harper and I were meeting to practice. I was so enchanted by the sound I bought my first harp kit at the shop where he worked. It was a 22 string Irish lap harp. The harper’s name was Jerry, and if I could contact him today, I would thank him for inspiring me- it has been and continues to be the most wonderful music journey….

    Three other sources of inspiration for me are the late Derek Bell, Pamela Bruner, and Sylvia Woods.



    I used to play flute and viola, but I guess they weren’t quite large and heavy enough, and I hated only having 4 strings to tune.

    This is it, really: I was playing viola in a community orchestra, thinking how tired I was of going to rehearsal every week and not knowing what else to do with my viola, and I was thinking how I used to play piano very well, and with piano you can play solo, with groups, accompany, and all kinds of stuff. And then something went off in my head and thought “you can do most of that on the harp too.” So I started Googling, and the next thing I knew there was a rental harp in my living room and Sylvia Woods in my DVD player.


    I was a junior in high school and planning on being a piano major in college. I got my classical music fix in the rural area I lived in by singing in church choirs and community choruses. One day the church choir director came to me and told me he was planning to put together a girls chorus to perform Brittain’s Ceremony of Carols, and he asked me if I would be the rehearsal pianist. He said that if he couldn’t find a harpist for the performance, I’d also have to play for that too. He gave me a copy of the music and a recording of Osian Ellis and Trinity College Choir performing the piece. When I heard it I was transfixed by the harp, especially the Interlude. I listened to the recording over and over again and decided to try to find a harp teacher. I found one(Lois Bannerman) who was willing to teach me and also willing to rent me a harp(a brand new 23!!). As soon as I had my first lesson I knew that was it. A year later I was majoring in harp in College.


    I was in Kindergarten. I must have seen a picture or heard the harp in a music class because I came home from school and told my parents I wanted to play it. (It’s weird how vivid this memory is!) Of course they said no– how seriously do you take a five-year-old boy? I remember getting mad and saying that I would build my own. I went down to the basement, found three long pieces of wood, nailed them together to make a triangle, then started wrapping white kite string around it. Realizing it wouldn’t work, I sat on the cold basement floor with the “harp” in my lap and started to cry. I guess the event left some kind of impression on my dad because ten years later he built me my first harp. I still have it!

    Kate Hopkins

    (This became a longer story then I expected…)

    What a fun question…
    My desire to play the harp started when I was very young, I do not actually remember exactly when, but I do know that it was crystallized when I was in the 2nd grade. A concert harpist came to do a concert and harp demo/talk at my school, I was mesmerized and in love. I remember it was a perfect picture of what I expected a harp to be….huge beyond my comprehension carved and golden…Probably a L&H 23.

    When the school started the band program, I wanted to play harp…unfortunately, there was no teacher and my poor family could not afford the harp itself. My dreams would be put on hold for a long time.

    When I was in high school, I re-approached the dream, saving all the money I earned from a summer job with the dream of buying a harp kit for a 31 string gothic harp I had seen in a catalog. I saved the funds but when it came time to purchase the harp, my mother convinced me it was not a good idea and persuaded me to buy school clothes instead.

    As an adult, the dream would come in and out of my life. I run a theatrical production company and work at several renaissance festivals around the US. I see harps everywhere…but as an adult with absolutely no musical background, it seemed a hopeless dream…Until two women convinced me otherwise. One a self taught harpist who plays in a harp based band full time and another who is a dear friend of mine who had taken lessons from the first lady.

    I began the long search for information about harps and the long conversation with my loving husband about the dream. (He took convincing as it seems all my hobbies are costly…sidesaddle riding and my love of wearing Japanese kimono among them)
    He relented and set a budget…but reminded me if he ever finds clothing hanging on it he will sell it on craigslist!

    Like so many I was first intrigued by the inexpensive harps available on Ebay, but my desire was a full sized floor harp and even the rosewood harps in that size were not much less then a used high quality harp. I was lucky to find this forum in the search for information, it provided so much valuable insight about different approaches. I especially came to understand the importance of a teacher, even if for only the beginning to get the technique correct. For some this may seem an easy task, but I travel for a living for 2 – 3 months at a time. This would mean having so many teachers all willing to work with what the previous had taught. I was also faced with the need for a harp and because of my traveling, I could not rent. After much research I decided that a troubadour would be a good choice, both because of it not looking like a era specific style of harp, but also because it was built for students and could withstand some of the ravel and abuse it would likely take in my life. I had really hoped to find an original model, as I love the lines of the gothic shape.

    After much research I decided to start my Harp lessons this year during a 2 month stay in Florida, I had read an article about an amazing woman that taught harp and ran a branch of Harps-International. I started a line of communication and decided with her help that an intensive set of lessons would be the best choice.

    In Feb of this year I realized my dream and started lessons 2-3 times a week with Sue Carol DeVale. Her teaching is simply delightful and fun, pushed hard for good technique but never boring or tormenting. Through her I found a Troub IV another student was selling at a perfect price….

    I have just left Florida and have tons of scales and rolls to work on along with the several pieces of lesson and fun music. My journey has only just begun…


    I fell in love with the harp my first semester in college. I was majoring in Theory and Composition with a minor in Piano. I had played French Horn all through Middle and High School (I really wanted to learn the Oboe, but the band director said they needed someone on French Horn) So to get Orchestra credits I was playing French Horn


    Paul, you must be a Louisiana boy like me (or at least native)!

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