As this podcast is released, it is the day before Valentine’s Day, and whether you celebrate the day in a special way or not, it’s hard to escape the advertisements urging us to buy and send cards, candy and flowers. I think, though, that we harpists have a special role to play, not just on Valentine’s Day, but every day.
Music, love and romance are inseparable for most of us. We have our special songs that bind us to those we love. There are certain pieces of music that tug at our hearts and move us to barely expressible joy or tears. In the words of virtuoso cellist Pablo Casals, “Music is the divine way to tell beautiful, poetic things to the heart.”
And what instrument is more appropriate than the harp to be the voice of those beautiful, poetic things? In the Bible, we read how David soothed Saul with his harp music. Folk traditions the world over associate the harp with love. In early Norse and various Celtic traditions, the...
We call them lightbulb moments, those unpredictable flashes of brilliance that spark our creativity. Or perhaps our inspiration comes from others we admire. Common thought says inspiration is necessary for anyone in an artistic endeavor, yet we believe it is elusive and selective, showing up randomly and bestowing its gifts unequally.
What does inspiration mean to you? Is it outside you, meaning that something or someone inspires you in a certain way? Or is it inside you, meaning that our inner lightbulb has a secret switch that suddenly flips and makes that lightbulb moment? Both? Neither?
Music history is filled with stories of inspiration, particularly stories about musical mentors who have helped shape the careers of some of the most famous classical musicians. From the greats like Mozart and Beethoven to modern composers like John Williams and Leonard Bernstein, these mentors have passed down their knowledge and expertise to generations of aspiring musicians.
If you look at...
It’s a wonderful life.
I love watching that movie at the holidays or really at any time of year. But the movie is not what I’m talking about.
I mean simply that this is the time I like to pause and be grateful for this wonderful life and all the amazing people I am privileged to share it with. And that includes you, my friend.
So on this very brief podcast, the last one of 2022, I would like to share my reflections with you, my thoughts on what made 2022 special for me, professionally and personally. Perhaps this will inspire you to do some similar reflecting. Perhaps this was a banner year for you, or maybe it was a challenging one. Either way I would encourage you to find at least one thing to celebrate.
Before I start, though, I want to thank you for the great gift you have given me this year. I know how many demands there are for your time and attention and I am very grateful and very honored that you share some of your time with me. I love hearing that...
If you’ve ever marveled at the healing power of music, then this podcast episode will blow your mind.
This week I will share with you a conversation with a special guest, harpist Barbara Lepke-Sims. Barbara is a Juilliard trained harpist and an expert teacher and performer, and one of the main facets of her playing is as a music practitioner. She doesn’t just call herself a music practitioner; she is certified through the Music for Healing and Transition program and has more than a decade of experience bringing healing and peace to those who suffer.
I met Barbara when I became a board member of the American Harp society, where she has been very active, but we really connected when we met up at the World Harp Congress in Wales this summer. I was curious about how she became a music practitioner, why she chose the certification program she did and what really motivates her about this important work.
I was really picking her brain because this is a field where...
Do you remember that famous Apple computer advertising campaign, the one that urged us all to “think different?”
That ad campaign was created just after Steve Jobs had returned to the Apple company and Apple needed a new start. The year was 1997 and Apple was on the rocks. Their stock was trading at a 12-year low, and the company that had been known for its creativity and innovation was stagnant and dying. So when Steve Jobs returned to Apple after having left in the mid-1980s, customers, if not Apple’s board of directors, were expecting something new and exciting. And they got it, with interest. During Jobs' tenure after his return, Apple launched the iMac, iBook, iPod, Mac OS X, iPhone, iPad, and more.
You may have forgotten that shaky period in Apple’s history, but I bet the ad campaign is still fresh in your mind.
There were two television advertisements that were shown most often. There was a one-minute version that featured ...
This Thursday we will celebrate Thanksgiving here in the U.S. and it’s a big deal for us. According to a recent survey Thanksgiving edges out all other holidays, including Christmas, ranking as our most popular holiday. It’s really about three things: food, family and football. Oh right. It’s about being thankful too.
We try to be more intentional about keeping an “attitude of gratitude” at this time of year, but it isn’t easy. Thanksgiving also is the official kick off for the holiday shopping season, so the thankfulness is often tinged with a touch of frenzy as the Black Friday sales begin.
I’m sure you’re receiving plenty of reminders to be thankful this Thanksgiving but I wanted to add a special harp-themed reminder.
My idea actually grew out of the Play It With Confidence Intensive from just a few weeks ago. We spent a lot of time in that course talking about mindset and choosing what matters to us in our playing. For me...
I am fascinated with 3D printers. I don’t have one and I don’t see that I will ever need to have one, although we would have said the same about a smartphone just a few years ago. The idea, though, that a computer file, which seems less than tangible to begin with, can be turned into a solid three-dimensional object fascinates me, And 3D printing is used virtually everywhere: to produce eyeglasses and furniture, scale models, medical devices, reconstruction of ancient artifacts, and the list goes on.
The process is also interesting. It requires special software to read the design file and slice it into hundreds or thousands of cross-sections of the end product which are then created one by one until the end product is complete.
What I find so intriguing is that the process is an additive process where the slices are added together to create the object. Consider how this is the reverse of more traditional processes where material is taken away, or subtracted, from...
Today is Labor Day in the United States. The very first Labor Day was celebrated exactly 140 years ago today on September 5, 1882. It was intended as a holiday for the general working population in recognition of their contributions to the country’s prosperity and strength. At that time it was decided that the celebrations should include a parade to showcase the trade and labor unions and a picnic for the workers and their families.
Today, 140 years later, Labor Day celebrations still include parades and picnics. Labor Day also marks the traditional end of summer holidays and the beginning of a new school year.
The idea of Labor Day - to celebrate and honor work and toil - is a powerful one, and one that I would like to suggest has application to our harp playing. That’s the key word - playing.
We work so hard to make our playing what we want it to be, what we think it should be. By contrast, how much time do we take to celebrate our hard work or even to...
Summer is flying by for me, and I imagine for you too. I always make big plans for the summer. I tell myself that this is the summer I will start my Christmas music early or seriously work on my technique or get that recital program memorized. But no matter how good my intentions are, the summer just seems to slip through my fingers without anything to show for it other than a sunburn. It can feel pretty disheartening.
Let’s turn this around for a minute. What if this were the summer that I really enjoyed my harp playing? Not worked hard at it or put pressure on myself to get to that next level or learn that big piece, but just enjoyed it. I’m feeling the harp happiness buzz already.
I hope that sounds good to you too because on today’s show I’m going to share 10 of my favorite ways to create adventure in your summer harp playing - that’s right, adventure.
Your music could be a time machine taking you to a distant place and time. It could be a...
Octaves are everywhere. There are very few harp pieces that don’t include octaves somewhere, and with good reason. Octaves add richness to a left hand accompaniment or to a right hand melody. The added resonance of the string played an octave lower or higher makes the entire harp come alive with sound.
We harpists love octaves and we play them all the time. So why are they often the hardest intervals to play well?
You know what I mean. Your thumb plays two strings at once, or your fourth finger brushes the surrounding strings, making your octave sound like a cluster of sound rather than a clear, clean interval. Sometimes they are hard to place accurately and our fingers buzz or just play the wrong notes.
It’s time to go back to basics, my friends. Don’t feel discouraged; this is what we all do from time to time when a fundamental part of our technique isn’t working. It’s not a failure. It’s merely a coordination we need to...
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