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Practicing Harp Happiness

#137: How Not Setting Goals May Save Your Harp Playing

music and meaning Jan 01, 2024

Happy New Year! It’s the first morning of a new year and I am feeling, as I do every new year, that sense of excitement and possibility that inhabits those empty calendar pages.  I can hardly wait to see what 2024 will bring. 

Since this podcast is going live on New Year’s Day, I thought it was particularly appropriate to talk today about goals. We talk about harp goals a lot at Harp Mastery® but today I actually want to elevate our viewpoint and look at harp playing goals with a broader perspective.

SMART goals - specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-based - have been the gold standard of productivity experts for a while. Those five criteria combine in a way that makes success look almost like a mathematical certainty. They feel powerful because they are so concrete.

But music isn’t like that. Music is about creativity. It’s not about following rules, it’s about choosing which ones you want to follow. It’s not about...

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#136: A Holiday Harp Music Mix - Just For You

music and meaning Dec 25, 2023

A special holiday music mix just for podcast listeners!

The program:

  • Two from Messiah
    Pastoral Symphony/He shall feed his flock
    Arranged by Anne Sullivan
  • Greensleeves, from Anne’s Break Forth CD,
    Arranged by Anne Sullivan
  • Coventry Carol
    Arranged by Anne Sullivan
  • Pat-a-pan
    Arranged by Anne Sullivan
  • In Dulci Jubilo, from Anne’s Break Forth CD,
    Arranged by Anne Sullivan
  • Largo from Winter, from Anne’s Break Forth CD,
    Arranged by Anne Sullivan
  • 12 Days of Harpiness
    Arranged by Anne Sullivan

Links to things I think you might be interested in that were mentioned in the podcast episode: 

Get involved in the show! Send your questions and suggestions for future podcast episodes to me at [email protected]

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#135: My Year in Review: Remembering What Really Matters

music and meaning Dec 18, 2023

The year-end wrap has become a hot trend. The worthy practice of reflecting on the year that is nearly over and the new one about to start is no longer simply a quiet moment with a cup of tea and a journal. It’s an opportunity for businesses to go public with their successes. We at Harp Mastery® have jumped on the bandwagon, too. It’s fun to look back and see what we’ve accomplished. It’s important, perhaps even more so, to see where we missed the mark. Somehow, though, those aren’t the numbers that show up on social media. We like to count the wins.

But this episode isn’t about what Harp Mastery® has done. After all, this isn’t a business podcast. This podcast is about you, me and our harp playing. And that’s what this episode is about too.

I want to share with you my own system for looking back, for remembering what my year was like. I start in the same way you may, by looking back at my calendar week by week and month by...

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#132: What Your Favorite Harpist Needs: A Gift List with a Difference

music and meaning Nov 27, 2023

Long, long ago in what seems like a galaxy far away, there was no Cyber Monday. There was barely even a Black Friday. We shopped in stores, not on the yet-to-be-imagined internet. 

And for the children who were dreaming of holiday presents, there was the Sears catalog, the “Wish Book” edition. If you are an American of a certain age, you are nodding your head right now, but if you have no idea what I’m talking about, I’ll explain.

Sears is a department store chain that was founded in 1892. It was in the beginning exclusively a mail order business, and the Sears catalog was an important resource for shoppers all over the country, but particularly in rural areas that had limited access to stores. But, the special “Wish Book” edition, first printed in 1933 and released every year at holiday time, was the ultimate catalog shopping experience. It ceased publication in 1993, but at its peak, the catalog had over 600 pages with more than 100 pages...

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#130: Reducing Overwhelm: How Not to Be Your Own Worst Enemy

music and meaning Nov 13, 2023

As of today, the day this podcast episode goes live, it is exactly six weeks until Christmas. As I said that, a little shiver ran down my spine. What was your reaction? Maybe you are channeling your inner child who can hardly wait for Christmas and you were jumping up and down. 

But I wouldn’t be surprised if you were a little annoyed or even felt a flutter of anxiety at being reminded of how fast the holiday season is approaching. Those Christmas songs that already form the shopping soundtrack in every store are more than a little irritating to me. They seem to bring out my inner Scrooge and it’s mostly because they just remind me of everything I still have to do to get ready. In a word, it feels overwhelming.

Of course, the feeling of overwhelm when it comes to your harp playing isn’t just a holiday phenomenon. Overwhelm poses a challenge for us every day. There is always a spot that needs more work, some technical drill we should be doing, new music we...

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#126: Engaging Your Creativity: Making Your Practice Make Music

music and meaning Oct 16, 2023

What are the qualities you think you need to be a good harpist? I’ll bet every harpist has a different answer for this.

Understand that I’m not thinking in terms of the skills useful to a harpist, skills like a good ear, the ability to sight read, musicality, flying fingers, and the ability to memorize. I would agree that those are all important to some degree, but I invite you to consider some of the personal traits or day to day habits that would be useful or even essential for a harpist.

This idea conjures up a completely different list. Maybe you’d put character traits like determination, perseverance, self-discipline and courage on that list. Those would indeed be helpful. So would objectivity, the ability to treat yourself with kindness and grace, even when you’re struggling. There are other mindset habits that are important too, like a desire to learn and resilience. 

Today we’re going to explore one of the qualities that I think is...

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#123: If I Were Starting Over: What You Should Know

music and meaning Sep 25, 2023

“If I were starting over, I would…”

That's our topic for today’s show. If I were starting my harp journey over again, from square one, what would I do differently, knowing what I know now? Obviously, I have done decades of practice, taken thousands of lessons, done thousands of performances, and I’ve taught countless students. I’ve watched students thrive and I’ve worked with those who struggle. And both kinds of students have taught me so much. They’ve given me a breadth of experience that goes well beyond my own personal harp journey. 

As I reflect on what my own harp story was like, the remarkable privileges that I had, the circumstances that shaped my harp life gave me only one view of harp study - my own. But over the years of working with so many other harpists, I have come to identify a few factors that can speed up a harpist’s progress, no matter that harpist’s age or skill level.  

I’ve also...

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#116: Taking the Mystery Out Of Mastery

music and meaning Aug 07, 2023

I once had someone suggest to me that Harp Mastery® was a little ambitious as a name. Was I intending that my blog and my website would only help people at the highest level or help them to become masters of the instrument? Or was I proclaiming myself a “master” of the harp? Eek, definitely not. In response, I told her I believed that mastery didn’t have to be defined as the ultimate level of achievement, although that is how we often think of it. I had a different idea of mastery in mind.

Certainly the term can be applied to the virtuoso whose skill and artistry are, or are destined to become, legendary. 

But I believe that all of us harpists, at whatever level of accomplishment, can attain the feeling of mastery, a feeling that encompasses confidence in our ability at our skill level,  pride in our achievements and pleasure in our playing. Is that true mastery as we would apply the word to harp legends like Renié, Hasselmans or...

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#109: Why Other Musicians Study Bach And Why Harpists Should Too

music and meaning Jun 19, 2023

Yes, this episode is about Bach, the Bach, Johann Sebastian Bach. I know some of you are thinking this is a waste of a podcast episode, that you are never going to play any music by Bach and since he didn’t write any music for harp anyway, this couldn’t possibly be relevant to your harp playing.

Let me tell you, you couldn’t be more wrong.

Bach may not have written anything for harp, but his influence is felt by every composer and musician since his time. You probably know that French composer Charles Gounod wrote his beautiful Ave Maria melody as a vocal addition to Bach’s Prelude in C. But perhaps you didn’t know that the trumpet solo on the Beatles song “Penny Lane” came about after Paul McCartney heard trumpeter Dave Mason performing the Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, the same concerto which is featured in the movie The Island of Doctor Moreau. Other movies featuring the music of Bach range from Disney’s Fantasia to the Godfather to...

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#105: Survive an Inflection Point Using Your Harp Story

music and meaning May 22, 2023

I’ve been thinking about harp stories lately, not the fiction type of stories. I mean the kind of harp story we each have, the one about the moment we discovered the harp. Maybe it was the first time we saw it or heard it or heard about it. Maybe it was a long time ago or fairly recent. Maybe it was a dramatic moment or more of a gradual awakening.

I love hearing how harpists discovered their passion for the harp. Every harpist’s story is unique and yet each shares the common thread of the magnetic pull of the harp. 

Many of you have heard my harp story. I myself didn’t learn the beginning of it until I was in my first year of college, studying at The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. I had come to a crisis point, one where I was in a “do-or-die” kind of situation. In brief, my teacher had told me that either I fixed what was wrong with my playing or I was going to have to leave Curtis, since I clearly wouldn’t succeed there. The...

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