Back-to-school Zen playlist

10 zenful tunes to ease your back-to-school stress!

With school back into full swing, we’re all feeling the dreaded back-to-school stress! Between adjusting to back-to-school hours, homework, paper deadlines, etc. it can be difficult to remember to carve out relaxation time. That’s why I’ve curated this playlist to help bring a little zen into your lives!

These pieces are full of beautiful, relaxing, and reflective melodies sure to help clear your mind and put you in a tranquil mood. I’ve listed the pieces in order of difficulty—from least difficult to most difficult. I hope you enjoy and say yes to less stress!

The Water is Wide (Sylvia Woods)

Level: Beginner

This traditional American tune was made for the harp! Sylvia Wood’s arrangement is especially nice because the melody keeps growing on itself each time it is repeated. There are really lovely harmonies toward the end and harmonics sprinkled in that let this delicate melody sing. I’ve had this in my gig book for years – never gets old!

Spiritual Medley (Sylvia Woods)

Level: Advanced beginner/Intermediate

This arrangement of two American spirituals (“Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child” and “Wayfaring Stranger”) is stunning, especially on a resonant harp! Lots of arpeggios in both hands keep the melody moving and flowing throughout. Perfectly reflective!

Lullaby (Rhett Barnwell)

Level: Intermediate

This is such a sweet, charming little piece! Rolled chords, arpeggios, and grace notes are sprinkled throughout for some beautifully delicate moments. This piece is really versatile—it could be used for weddings, churches and light background music. For more reflective pieces by Rhett, make sure to see his A Serenade for the Soul collection!

Rhett Barnwell



Dance of the Night (Meg Robinson)

Level: Intermediate

Admittedly, I like to play this piece slower than the marked tempo. The calming melody floats between major and minor, which gives it a little twist. The left hand stays consistent throughout with its eighth-note pattern, while the right hand explores several different melody ideas. You will find yourself humming along the whole time!

His Eye is On the Sparrow (Brook Boddie)

Level: Intermediate

It’s no surprise to have a hymn on this list—we all know hymns sound fantastic on the harp! I frequently play for senior living homes and am always looking for pretty hymns to share with them and this was a perfect match! This arrangement is just as pretty as it is fun to play, as it keeps its momentum throughout.

Sentara (Liana Alpino)

Level: Intermediate

The main melody of this piece was written while attending a healing harps workshop and it is meant to do just that—heal and relax the audience and player. An upbeat, driving middle section gives the piece some edge before coming back to the soothing theme at the end. Many folks tell me they hear different story lines in this piece—from an enchanted forest, to a sunset over the mountains to overcoming adversity. It is my hope that the player’s soul will be so relaxed playing this that they can find their own story!

Liana Alpino



Angelica (Cindy Horstman)

Level: Intermediate/advanced

This original composition is really the definition of a “reflective ballade,” as composer Cindy Horstman calls it. It is calming with a jazzy, syncopated twist. It’s one of those pieces you can get lost in and find yourself swaying along to as you play it. It is my new favorite addition to my gig book!

Cindy Horstman



Serenata (Gary Shocker)

Level: Advanced

This work has a classical feel to it that is quite therapeutic, with some very unique harmonies! Your hands will definitely not be bored playing this as the 16th notes are constant throughout—and it’s also a great workout for your left hand! Composer Gary Shocker says the piece is filled with “feelings of nostalgia and passion” and you can definitely feel that while playing it!

Jesus, I Am Resting (Erin Hansen)

Level: Advanced

I had never heard of this hymn before, but man, it is beautiful! The harmonics and lush rolled chords that Erin Hansen uses are delicate, peaceful touches. This is a perfect pick if you need a stunning solo for church!

Love in Bloom (Christa Grix)

Level: Advanced

This medley of two Celtic airs (“My Love is Like a Red Red Rose” and “The Riddle Song”) is just gorgeous! You honestly feel calmer while playing it. It isn’t often that you have a jazzy touch in Celtic music, making this refreshing to play!

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