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When Opportunity Knocks

When an opportunity comes to you, how do you decide whether or not to pursue it? What factors should you consider? Do you take every opportunity or should you be selective? I have some guidelines that may be helpful when you have this kind of decision to make.

 Knock, Knock. Who’s there? Opportunity! Some people naturally embrace every chance that presents itself. This apparent lack of fear is astounding to more cautious souls, who may both envy it and be grateful that theirs is a more sedate nature.

But when an opportunity appears, there are some ways to make a choice that’s reasoned and intelligent, a choice that will help you make the most of an opportunity without breaking out in a cold sweat.

1. Make “Yes” your default response. When I was a student, this was my strategy. Every once in a while, I got in over my head, but in general, this improved my sightreading, grew my musical vocabulary, and provided experiences that expanded...

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Happy Birthday, Salzedo!

Carlos Salzedo: harpist, composer, teacher, innovator, born April 6. 1885. I never met him, but my teacher was his student, and I have had many opportunities to talk with others of his students.  I love the stories, much like I love hearing family stories about relatives I never knew. But in the true tradition of music, my deepest connection to Salzedo comes through his recordings and his compositions, the living legacy of any great musician.

Salzedo’s vision of the harp was groundbreaking, rewriting the future of the harp in ways no one would have expected. He created a total picture of a new instrument for the brand-new twentieth century, an instrument that was capable of adhering to tradition while exploring the possibilities of the new musical aesthetic. He extended the techniques and, in that way, the tonal language of the instrument. His music may appeal to you or not, but Salzedo opened the harp to the twentieth century, and the world to the harp.

Every great...

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No More Memorization Mistakes

performing practicing Apr 03, 2013

With recital season upon us, it may be the perfect time to check your memorization techniques.

Memorization mistakes are probably the most dreaded of all performance difficulties. But it is possible to learn to avoid making them, or at least minimize the aftermath.

How do you make certain your music is well memorized? I have a few suggestions.

First of all, you need to understand the real nature of the problem. So-called “memory slips” are almost always caused by lapses in concentration or focus, not actually forgetting the music. Playing from memory is like driving on a road with lots of potholes. You may be able to drive around the potholes, or you may accidentally hit one. In your practice, you actually want to try to hit the potholes, so you can locate them and repair them.

But as every driver knows, repairing potholes is not a “once and done” thing. The old potholes come back and new ones form. But the more you practice, the deeper your knowledge of...

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Push Back to Develop Your Strength

Feeling overwhelmed or discouraged with your practicing, playing or anything else? Push back!

“Dynamic Tension” is an exercise system developed by bodybuilder Charles Atlas in the 1920’s. The core principle of Dynamic Tension is self-resistance, using your own muscles to provide resistance to train other muscles.

Atlas always said he got the idea for this system from watching the lions and tigers at the zoo. Watching the animals display their strength, he realized that their fitness didn’t require barbells or other equipment. They simply pitted one muscle against another to maintain and develop their strength.                                                     Charles Atlas

Dynamic tension is said to very safe, as you use only your own strength to provide the resistance. Similarly, as you grow stronger, the...

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Music for a Good Friday

music miscellany Mar 29, 2013

On this Good Friday, I would like to share with you the music of Good Friday 286 years ago, the music of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion.

The St. Matthew Passion is a monumental work, calling for double choir and double orchestra. It is imposing in length, around 3 hours. It is dramatic, a moody and emotional depiction of Christ’s suffering on the cross. It has been sung, staged, and choreographed, but the music by itself tells the story powerfully.

If this is a work you don’t know, this is a great day to discover it. But because it is so lengthy, your best introduction to it may be through some of the work’s most beautiful and moving sections. The magnificent opening chorus Kommt, ihr Töchter,” the famous chorale O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden, the sublime Erbame dich are all great places to start. Just check them out online.

I have included here one of my favorite movements, the bass aria, Mache...

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Some Lessons I Learned

In today’s post I share with you some of the lessons I have learned on my musical journey.

I am often asked for my opinion on the most important things for a young harpist to learn. Usually students who ask the question are looking for the ultimate practice secret or repertoire piece. Parents of students are looking for practical information on harp buying and colleges.

But the things I think are important are different from these. They are important to every harpist, whether student or professional, old or young.  And so, speaking from my experience, I hope that you will find something useful to you.

Three things I wish I had known when I was starting my harp journey:

1. I wish I had experienced more of the wider harp world. The harp world was much smaller and more isolated when I started playing the harp. Without the internet and social media, even a big city like Philadelphia didn’t provide much harp camaraderie. The insight and support of other harpists is...

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Could you tune without a tuner?

What if all the tuners and tuner apps disappeared tomorrow? Could you tune your harp?

Of course, the tuners will not all disappear. In fact, tuners and tuner apps are everywhere and easier to use than ever.

But could you tune your harp without one if you had to? Have you developed your ear to “hear” intonation instead of merely “see” it on your tuner?

It’s funny when you think about it. Music is something we hear, but tuners are essentially visual. The visualization of pitch from a tuner is great for making each note absolutely correct. (See previous post.) It’s also invaluable when it’s too noisy to hear clearly.

But the old fashioned tuning fork  made us listen and use our ear to tune. Today, we rely on our tuners so much that some students never develop their critical hearing skills. It takes some effort to develop your hearing, but it is worth the effort.

Here are three ways you can use your tuner to help train your ear:


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Five Fun Harp Things to Do This Weekend

music miscellany Mar 22, 2013

Put some harp in your weekend,  just for fun!




1. Polish your harp. I like to keep my harp clean with regular dusting and occasionally a damp cloth, but once a year or so, I enjoy “detailing” my harp, cleaning all the nooks and crannies and giving it polish all over. Here’s a YouTube video on harp cleaning from harp regulator Steve Moss.

2. Order a piece of music to play this spring. Something easy, something light, something happy, something romantic. Just something to make your harp and your heart sing.

3. Share a harp video you love on Facebook. This video is one of my favorites. I always love Harpo, and here he plays Liszt’s Second Hungarian Rhapsody with his own jazz twist.

4. Have a string changing evening. Invite a friend over and you can change the old, worn-out strings on your harp. It’s a great time to put on new wire strings too. They make your harp look like new and sound deep and rich. When...

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Grow Your Talent Seed

Black Krim Tomato

A “talent seed?” This is what I mean:

Despite the six inches of snow on the ground at my house, today is the first day of spring. And in anticipation of the eventual good weather, I have been entertaining myself with gardening books and catalogs. Did you know the Burpee seed catalog lists over 100 varieties of tomatoes? I was particularly taken by “Black Krim,” a very dark colored tomato. If you didn’t know better, you might think it had spoiled on the vine.

And then I read a short blog post from Seth Godin on talent. And the two items started a train of thought that I wanted to share with you.

I believe the two most frequent statements we make about talent to be dangerously misleading.

False statement #1: That person is so talented.

False statement #2: I’m just not talented.

If talent is something you either have or you don’t, then those statements are true. In fact, then practicing is pointless and...

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How to Tune Your Harp

musicianship practicing Mar 18, 2013

NOTE: The notes given are for tuning a lever harp tuned in C Major.
Pedal harps should tune in C-flat Major (pedals up).
Lever harps with other tunings must be tuned with levers down.

Tuning a harp is a chore. After all,  we would rather be playing. But tuning is essential. Most importantly, playing on an out-of-tune harp is a bad habit to develop. It teaches your ear to ignore what it hears. This is totally counterproductive! We want to be discerning listeners.

In this post, I outline the good news about tuning, the ultimate commandment of tuning, and a step-by-step system for tuning.

First, the good news about tuning: A harp that is kept in tune, stays in tune. The more regularly and carefully you tune, the less time it will take to tune. Also, your harp will need less tuning when you move it. So tune every day (at least!).

Next, the ultimate commandment of tuning: Never tune with levers up or pedals down. Tuning when you have the levers or discs engaged puts extra...

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