Practicing Harp Happiness:
Music and Meaning Collection

Discover deeper musical connections to inspire every moment of your harp playing.

Episode #154: 3 Bach Pieces Every Harpist Should Know and Why

Johann Sebastian Bach is a name every musician knows. He is revered as a composer whose music defined musical practices in the Baroque era and whose compositions still influence music and musicians today. Learning about his music and learning to play his music is required study for any music major.

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Episode #150: Practice Positivity: How to Combat Your Worst Critic

This podcast episode goes live on April Fool’s Day, and I probably couldn’t have picked a more appropriate day to release it. I didn’t do it on purpose, but today’s topic lines up very nicely with April Fool's. It’s about the fool’s game of self-criticism.

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

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.

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

A special holiday music mix just for podcast listeners!

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

“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.

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Episode #116: Taking the Mystery Out Of Mastery

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?

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

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.

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Episode #105: Survive an Inflection Point Using Your Harp Story

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.

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Episode #102: Music To Grow By: Repertoire Refreshers

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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Episode #084: My Three Most Meaningful Gifts of 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.

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

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. 

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

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.

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Episode #079: Playing from an Attitude of Gratitude

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.

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Episode #078: Bring More Dimension To Your Music: A 3D Approac

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 benign 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.

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#068: Mindset Reset: Keeping the Play in Your Playing

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.

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Episode #065: 10 Harp Adventures To Create Before Summer Is Over

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.

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Episode #062: Your Guide to Perfect Octaves

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?

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Episode #061: Masterclass: Making Sense of Meter Signature Changes

Has this ever happened to you? You’re sailing along, playing through a new piece. You’re feeling pretty good because the piece is actually flowing along. You can tell you’ve been making progress because a year or so ago, this piece would have felt difficult. Just about the time you’re ready to pat yourself on the back and imagine yourself tackling that piece you’ve always thought was too hard, your playing comes to a screeching halt.

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Episode #055: Overcoming Fears, Doubt and Misgivings: Take the Long View

What have you done lately that was courageous? I hope you shouted your answer, said it loud and proud. Okay, now answer this one. What would you have done recently if you hadn’t been so fearful? That’s not exactly a “loud and proud” moment. But we all do it; we let our fears, our doubts, our nerves get the better of us.

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Episode #054: An American Romantic:The Music of Stephen Foster for Harp

Stephen Foster is often referred to as the “Father of American music,” or “America’s first songwriter,” neither of which is strictly true. However, Stephen Foster’s extensive output of songs and the strength of their popularity more than 150 years later attests to the powerful connection his music creates. The homespun appeal of his words and music evokes gentle images of family, home, love and longing that are in sharp contrast to his more difficult reality.

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Episode #048: Three Questions Your Teacher Wishes You Would Ask

A harp lesson is hard work, for both the student and the teacher. It’s a time to acknowledge progress and challenges, to take what’s going well to the next level and to find ways to make the rough patches smoother. It’s not a performance where your teacher will judge you on how well you play that day. And it’s not a cozy get together for tea and encouragement, although those could be part of a lesson too. A lesson is for learning.

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Episode #046: Taking A Second Look at Salzedo’s Music

What famous harpist has his 137th birthday this week? Carlos Salzedo, that’s who. This harpist and musical innovator was born in Arcachon, France on April 6, 1885, and on today’s show I would like to introduce you to a side of his music you may not have encountered, including some music not only playable but even suitable for lever harp. Before we get started, you will need to know a little of my own background.

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Episode #043: Three Irish Composers You Should Know (But Probably Don’t)

It’s almost St. Patrick’s Day, a day which is important to many of us, not just because we’re Irish (my last name is Sullivan, after all) or maybe just Irish for a day. As harpists many of us raise a glass on St. Patrick’s Day to celebrate the amazing legacy of the Irish harpers and to the modern day harpers who continue this rich tradition.

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Episode #035: The Genetics of Musical Genre: Do You Have to Choose?

If all music uses the same basic elements, why do musical styles sound so different? And why do some connect with us so powerfully and others leave us cold?
Some harpists love to experiment with diverse musical styles.Others prefer to stick with what they love. Today’s episode explores elements of musical style. Discover why your favorite music touches you, and learn how to connect with styles new to you. Musical adventures await!

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#032: My 2022 Harp Happiness List

I’m going to get a little personal about harp happiness and it will probably surprise you. On this last podcast of 2021 I share my favorite harp moments of the past year and my harp goals for 2022. They aren’t the type of goals you probably imagine. Yes, there are some achievement type goals but there are more esoteric ones too. I hope they may inspire you to decide on some 2022 harp happiness goals for yourself. Here’s to a Happy New Year for all!

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Episode #030: Conquering Cantique de Noel: An Arpeggio Study

If we harpists had to choose one technical skill to have sharp for the holidays, it would have to be smooth, even arpeggios. Learn four different arpeggio styles and the best practice tips for each, revealed through four different harp arrangements of the beloved Christmas favorite, “O Holy Night.” Whether the arpeggios go up, down or all around in your own favorite arrangement, you’ll discover the strategies you need to make them sparkle.

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Episode #029: The Adult Harpist: 3 Reasons Starting Late Can Be An Advantage

Slower fingers and mental processes are part of aging but that doesn't mean that music and harp learning needs to be slower too. On this show, Anne reviews the “just for grown-ups” learning techniques which help her adult students experience faster and more rewarding progress.

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Episode #025: Schubert, Bach or Gounod? Who Wrote Your Ave Maria?

“Which Ave Maria?” I asked the bride. I could see the panic in her eyes. “You mean there’s more than one?” Whether it’s for a wedding, a funeral or Christmas Eve, all of the Ave Maria settings are beloved favorites. On today’s show we’ll discuss the two most requested ones: their histories, similarities, differences, plus practice ideas and performance tips including my secrets for making those awkward rhythms smooth.

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#011: Clair de lune: A Harpist's Guide

Some composers change music forever, Claude Debussy was one of those. Debussy is generally credited with the rise of the Impressionist movement in music. The Impressionists focused on the mood and atmosphere of music, conveying it through tone color and flow, rather than sharp musical detail.

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#007: Music of Revolution: The Liberty Song

Music has the power to inspire, to encourage and to unite. No song reveals this more clearly than the one written by a Philadelphia lawyer in 1768.

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Episode #003: Canon Law: A Harpist’s Guide to the Pachelbel Canon

What’s the one piece any harpist could name after just the first two chords? It’s the Pachelbel Canon of course. Whether you’ve played it a thousand times or have yet to learn it, the Canon in D by Johann Pachelbel has become standard repertoire for harpists.

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