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Practicing Harp Happiness

#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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#102: Music To Grow By: Repertoire Refreshers

music and meaning May 01, 2023

If you’re like me, and I’ll bet you are, you have a lot of music you want to play…someday. My music used to be in piles next to my music stand, until the piles got so untidy that I filed everything in boxes. And every time I dive into one of those boxes to retrieve a piece I need to work on, I find a hidden treasure, a piece I bought long ago that I forgot about. It’s like getting an early Christmas present - a new piece all ready for me to start. It takes all my willpower to also take out the piece I was looking for in the first place.

If you love investigating new music too, then today’s podcast episode is the one you’ve been waiting for. I have some pieces to share that might fill a gap in your gig repertoire or intrigue you or maybe even inspire you to try music you might not have thought was exactly your style. 

There is something here for everyone, whether you’re a lever or pedal harpist. The pieces are mostly at an...

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#091: Harp Strings and Heart Strings: A Lesson in Romantic Music

music and meaning Feb 13, 2023

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...

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#088: Muses, Models and Mentors: Where Does Inspiration Come From?

music and meaning Jan 23, 2023

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...

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#084: My Three Most Meaningful Gifts of 2022

music and meaning Dec 26, 2022

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...

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#083: Harp and Healing: Being A Certified Music Practitioner

music and meaning Dec 19, 2022

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...

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#082: Time for a Refresh: Why This is the Time to Think Different

music and meaning Dec 12, 2022

 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 ...

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#079: Playing from an Attitude of Gratitude

music and meaning Nov 21, 2022

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...

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