Major in Music? Why Bother.
I am trying to decide how I feel about this article in The New York Times about the ratio of conservatory musicians (in this case, Juilliard) who actually continued to make livings as performing artists 10 to 20 years after graduation. The central point seems to be that despite being highly skilled musicians—enabling them to get into an elite school like Juilliard in the first place—nearly half of the graduating class of 1994 ultimately ended up doing other things. While these stats may seem a little frightening for anyone contemplating music as a career choice, I have to ask, how is this any different from any other field of study, and why is it always so popular to pick on musicians as the ones who are likely to have no future? Yeah, we get it—it’s hard to be a musician in today’s economy. Well guess what? It’s hard to be anything in today’s economy!
The article highlights the struggles of some of the graduates who tried to make a living in music but wound up having to find other careers. I think my biggest problem is the unspoken implication that those who aren’t making a living performing, or those who left the field of music altogether, somehow failed. And if a “Juilliard” grad can’t even succeed, what hope is there left for the rest of us?
I did some research about what majors lead to the best chance of employment success after college. The fields that seem to be at the top of many lists are—not surprisingly—things like accounting, software development, and engineering. My husband graduated from Rice University—a big engineering school—so I asked him to tell me what some of his buddies were up to these days. One spent five years working for Exxon, then went back to school for an MBA. Another spent three years with Mobil before leaving to work in “pricing” at pharmaceutical company. And my husband? He left engineering altogether after his first year in college (he hated it) to pursue degrees in music and English, but now he works as a software engineer—a field he taught himself.
This highlights another problem I have with the article. Isn’t it OK to change your mind? Look around at all the people you know and compare what they are doing now to what degree they hold—if they even have one. If your friends are anything like mine, many of them probably changed direction somewhere along the way. Maybe they got tired or burned out with their original career choice. Or maybe they found something more lucrative. Or maybe they couldn’t find a job. Or maybe they hated their boss. Or maybe at age 18 when someone asked them to pick a field, they just didn’t know what they heck they wanted to do for the rest of their life. Whatever the reason, in other fields it seems to be OK—even encouraged—to move up, on, and over, whereas in music, it is often perceived as a failure. Didn’t land that orchestra gig? Welcome to Starbucks.
Except that most of the music school graduates I know don’t work at Starbucks. Sure, some of them landed a big performing gig, but most of them happily piece together careers that include not only performing, but things like teaching, publishing, recording, or working in music-related businesses. Or maybe even a business outside of music that they discovered along the way they’re good at. Then there are the colleagues who left music school and went on to med school, law school, or business school. One became a public radio host. Another founded a record label. The list goes on.
Which highlights another problem I have with the article. There seems to be an implied line of success vs. failure between the Juilliard grads who earned their paycheck solely performing vs. those who didn’t, regardless of whether they’re still, at the core, musicians. A good friend of mine who is a physician in a major University healthcare system recently cut back on her patient load to pursue a research project, but I don’t think anyone would accuse her of being any less of a doctor. Why is there so often a perception that if a musician isn’t performing 100% of the time, they’ve somehow given up?
I guess the ultimate reason I don’t like this article, is that the question of the value of a music education comes up time and again for me, mostly from students and parents who want me to guarantee them a “sure thing” when deciding on a career choice. Majoring in music—especially performance—seems like a risky proposition, and this article highlights all of those scary pressures, risks, and potential failures lurking around the corner.
The reality is, there is no sure thing. As far as your eventual career goes, a college education does nothing more than slightly improve your odds of being employed. The value of a music education, on the other hand, is the experience of pursuing something single-mindedly for four years. This article misses the point, because the point, in my mind, is not what kind of job your degree will get you, but what kind of person it will make you.
That article bothered me too because it was so dark. Thank you for putting a positive spin on it.
The article do make young people who are considering to study music performance scarced. Being a professional musician, meaning to earn a living through music is tough, I suppose. My respect for those who take the risk for majoring in music.
Kim- Your post is spot on. There are no guarantees about anything in life. I remember going to my 20th high school reunion many many years ago. Nearly everyone there(90 or so people showed up out of a graduating class of 180) had changed careers, divorced, and some remarried. So no, there are no guarantees.
As far as harpists are concerned, the big question for me would be: How much debt am I going to accumulate to get a music degree and how am I going to pay it off afterwards? I think it's a fair question for a high school musician to ask. I've told several of my students over the years that if they have any non-musical interests that could turn into a career, get your degree in that but continue to play and study the harp privately. That way, you can play professionally as much or as little as you want, but you have something else that is predictable and will pay the bills. The New York Times article may have been dark, but it talked about a reality that few people in or out of the arts are aware of.
Thanks for posting your thoughts. I sure do agree with you about all of this. And Carl is also right, in that a lot of people don't know about the reality of making it as a musician. It can be a tough business to be in.
I studied music for a long time, went to a well-known school with emphasis on performance, dropped out at 21 and went back to school again in my mid-30's to a little college in Vermont that wasn't known for music but really put me on the right path. Found out how much I truly hate performing. Seriously. It is just not for me. But I love studio work, and technology and music theory and arranging comes easily to me. So what I'm doing now and running a digital label is just perfect for me. But I hear you about attitudes regarding success or failure. I've encountered that... people sometimes don't get it that I don't want to have a performing career, and not even interested in repertoire anymore (for other reasons), but here I am. Success is what you define it to be, not someone else. And I'm happy where I'm at. I think you just have to take the path that is right for you and as long as it's paying the bills and you're happy, you can't worry too much about other people's ideas about you or what they think you ought to have done.
Thank you for this post! It is so true that it is economically hard to be just about anything these days, not just a musician. I also agree that people often change their minds and career paths at some point, and that is OK! I did-- I majored in studio art and teaching in college (it was a tough choice between art ed or music ed. I decided to keep music as a very important hobby and get formal training in visual arts) and many people who spoke with me about it over the years said things like, " Oh GOOD, at least you're doing teaching too, so you won't starve!" I was partially in agreement with them (it IS hard to start out doing freelance art and make a living), but also offended at the same time, because they clearly thought so little of the arts in general and my work in particular that they considered me to be nuts. Since graduating 5 years ago, I have done some of my own artwork, taught private art lessons, and have done substitute teaching in public schools. My current situation is stay-at-home mom, and I LOVE IT. I spend far more time playing music and making peanut butter sandwiches than I do drawing or painting, and that is totally fine with me. My degree isn't wasted because I'm not teaching art or doing exhibitions full-time; rather, that experience informs who I am and affects the way I perceive and relate to people and things all the time. I will always be an artist in the core of my being, whether I pursue that field full-time for my living or not. Thanks for a positive view about that negative article.
Just to point out that the article is from 2004. I think the outlook is a lot different today, and not in a good way.
I agree about the idea of changing. I don't work in the field my degree is in either (not a music degree) and no one considers me a failure for it. It wasn't a waste to get my degree. I do use what I learned, just in a different way.
The idea that if it is music and you change it is a failure doesn't make sense. I know people who had good success in music and still changed careers.
One thing I have noticed. The people I know who have been able to do well in the music business are those who have a wide range of diversity in what they actually do. Perform, teach, compose, arrange, in all sorts of settings and situations.
I think if your goal is the perform full time with an orchestra and that is the only thing you will consider a success then you are probably not very likely to succeed. But if success to you is just being able to make a decent living doing something with music then your odds are as good as in any other field.
Carl's approach, however, does make practical sense. If in any doubt get your degree in something that has a good chance of making a decent living, and study music on your own terms in private.
I think the problem with music is that many people have this idea that the only success in music can be had if you are so single minded and driven that you won't stop until you land that orchestra gig. But there are other approaches and other ways that music can fit into someone's life.
The thing about the article that really struck me is more how they portray the education at Julliard itself. They make it sound like they suck the joy out of music. It may be necessary to make sure the students have a realistic view of what they do, and be aware of the part that requires you to actually look at the business side of it, but they make the whole education process there sound joyless. I hope it isn't really like that.
Alison P Wilson
I overheard two very able harp students the other day asking each other whether they wanted to become harpists, meaning as lifetime careers, and I was both surprised and heartened by their grip on reality. When aged fourteen, I made the decision against pursuing acting, for the same sensible economic reasons and regretted it forevermore, but have more recently proved to myself that I had and still have the ability, whilst reflecting that I couldn't have made a living out of it, so life unfolds with its own order of events and influences which differs for each individual and I am grateful that I have the intellect and motivation to keep learning. What struck me as really sad is that the guy sold his instrument; that I wouldn't do.
Since I was child, I love music and practice several hours a day. At the point when I need to choose a career path, I seriously considered majoring in music. At that time, one of my classmate, with equal enthusiasm in music did choose to be major in music. For me, I studied medicine but continued to play music almost every day for the past 30+ years. Indeed more than 90% of my classmates choose a medical career as I did. My friend who majored in music seems not having the same leisure to play much any more. He becomes a very successful businessman while I am an ordinary physician who loves music and continue to play music everyday in the past years and perhaps many years to come. I am not a professional musician and I am glad I am not. I do not need to play anything that does not make any sense to me. I can play anything I like.
I recently pick up the harp and fall in love with this gorgeous instrument. This is the seventh instrument I have learned. At least I could afford a good pedal harp and a lever harp in my first month of playing. I feel learning music is the best thing in life. Major in music seems not the most important thing for those who truly loves music. A love at first sight.
--Kimberly,Q and A with Meghan Caulkett
47 Stings in Action
Want to play more and give back at the same time? Just take a cue from Meghan Caulkett and plan an ambitious series of concerts (47, to be exact) to bring the concert harp into schools, retirement homes, homeless shelters, and beyond. The Rice and Boston University alum is about mid-way through her personal challenge of performing 47 concerts—one for each string of her Salzedo model harp—throughout the Houston area. We asked her to tell us more about the project. (For more about how you can help, scroll to the links at the end of the story.)
How did you get the idea for 47 Strings?
I think everyone graduating from school has that panic moment of “What am I going to do next year?!” For me, I felt that I needed to improve on my performing of solo and chamber repertoire. I haven’t done any competitions since high school, so the few times I’ve performed solo rep have been on my senior, graduate, and studio recitals. I was trying to think of how I could perform more combined with community involvement. As a joke someone suggested to me that I do 47 concerts. I thought the idea was genius. Over two years, I could perform an extensive amount of repertoire while doing these concerts. Simultaneously, I had been thinking about how I could be more involved with
the community, and this seemed like a way for me to talk about the harp and present what an incredible instrument it is. So many people are fascinated by the harp, but never get to see one up close. Even seasoned orchestra goers tell me how they’ve never seen how intricate a harp is or heard its solo repertoire. That was how the concert series began; it has grown to be completely focused on community performances, involvement, and education.
Tell us about the concept and why you did it.
The idea is simple: bring classical harp music to people that aren’t often exposed to it. Since the harp has 47 Strings, there are 47 concerts in the series, focusing on performances for schools, retirement homes, and homeless shelters. A few things were really important to me when starting the project:
—That other musicians respected the project and wanted to get involved
—That the community responded positively to the impact classical music was having
—That the highest quality music was being performed (for example: Tournier “Sonatine”, Ginastera “Concerto”, and our own arrangement of Bartok “Romanian Folk Dances” for double bass and harp) I didn’t want these to be background music concerts.
Each program is unique in repertoire and what we discuss. For the younger kids, we go over if big strings make low or high sounds, and create stories to go along with the music. For the young adults in homeless shelters, I talk about where they can see free concerts in Houston, ranging from the Houston Symphony to solo recitals at Rice.
How far are you along in the challenge?
I have completed 27 concerts. I’m planning to ﬁnish the remaining 20 performances this fall, with the ﬁnal community concert being this December.
It looks like you've played for a lot of young kids—what has been the most unexpected question you've been asked?
The majority of performances have been for elementary schools, or children in homeless shelters. So far I’ve played for over 1,700 kids! During one of the ﬁrst performances I did for a kindergarten class, a little 5-year old boy raised his hand: “Are you married with a son?” he inquired. In his mind, he thought everyone must be exactly like his family. That was when I learned to be speciﬁc about asking for harp related questions.
Is the outcome of your project what you expected? What have you learned?
The reception has been more positive and exciting then I possibly could have imagined. The community has been so supportive. Both Rice and Boston Universities are proﬁling the concert series for their alumni magazines this summer. Rice awarded me the 2013 Richter Fund for Music Outreach which supported me with six performances in Houston Homeless shelters. Boston University featured 47 Strings on their “Arts for Social Change” panel this spring, where I was able to talk to current students about outreach projects.
I’ve learned that there is no way to do this alone. I have close friends that look at videos and grant applications before I send them out, people that help collect donations at the doors of community concerts, and amazing chamber musicians that come to play on concerts. I’ve also learned how much administrative works goes into a concert series.
Most of my time has been spent in planning and organizing. Everything from setting up a website, updating the Facebook page with recent pictures, and researching different grants. One of the most exciting things is that now other musicians are wanting to perform. Duos with other harpists, violinists, horn and ﬂute players, and even a double bassist have made for numerous successful chamber music concerts. I have heard from singers, cellists, clarinetist, and other string players that are wanting to get involved. 47 Strings is evolving into an outreach platform that expands beyond solo harp music—and I can’t wait to see where it goes.
Are you able to earn an income doing this, or will that come later?
Now that a lot of the administrative set-up for the concert series is completed, raising money to continue these performances has become a main focus. I personally haven’t made any money yet, but through a grant from Rice University and private donors, I have been able to pay for all music and transportation costs, as well as pay every
chamber musician that has played with me. It is a ﬁne line to walk, but it has always been one of my main points that every musician that plays should be paid. The people that are performing have degrees from Oberlin, CIM, Rice, and Carnegie Mellon, and hold positions in New World, Grant Park, and Houston Symphonies. In order to produce the highest quality music we all have extensive training and quality instruments. Since being freelance musicians is our profession, I think it important that we are compensated. I also think it adds value to the program, and the musicians in turn value the performances in a different way then they would if they were volunteering. These organizations are receiving top tier music from some of the best up-and-coming musicians.
When it's over, will you do it again?
I am deﬁnitely going to continue outreach programming, even if it not in the context of a set of 47 concerts. My plan is to continue to perform under the 47 Strings name. The money I am working to raise this summer will go toward establishing a residency at three of the homeless shelters for Houston children and young adults in 2014. Houston
has an incredibly large population of homeless youth. 10,933 children were registered as homeless in Harris County School Districts for the 2011 school year. Covenant House (one of the organizations I play for) is the largest Harris County youth emergency shelter, and served over 5,300 children and youth ages 10-21 in 2011, the majority were
ages 18-21.This musical residency would beneﬁt the community by helping give a generation of troubled young adults a positive hobby and passion. I have found that homeless youth are the group I am most passionate about performing for. My plan for the residency is to increase the number of concerts throughout the year, incorporate
more general music education, and partner with local orchestra and chamber groups to get the young adults tickets to professional concerts in the city. There are also a few grants I am in the process of applying for, and I am hoping 47 Strings will be accepted into the Houston Arts Alliance next Fall. My goal is to raise another $6,000 before the end of the year through private donations and other grants. This money will go toward establishing the musical residency at three of the homeless shelters next year. 47 Strings is ﬁscally sponsored by Fractured Atlas, so every contribution is tax-deductible. If you or someone you know are able to contribute, every donation from $20—$200 makes a huge difference.
Anything else you want to share?
Outreach is something that beneﬁts everyone. I think the more people that are exposed to classical music and the harp, the better the outcome is for everyone.
--Kimberly,Harps, Harps, and More Harps!
Aria in Classic Style, by Grandjany
"Allegro" by G.F. Handel/Williams
"Llano" by Alfredo Rolando Ortiz
This is the time of year when my students perform their annual harp ensemble concerts, so I hope you all will indulge me as I share some of our efforts! I'm really lucky, because the string department at the Temple University Music Preparatory Division has taken the harpists under their wing. It's become an annual tradition for the harps to be featured with their Youth Chamber Orchestra at the end of year gala concert in the beautiful Church of the Holy Trinity, on Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, and the more harps, the better! It's a challenge to find new and interesting repertoire for lots of harps and string orchestra year after year, so we've had to be a little creative. This year we tackled an ambitious project: the Aria in Classic Style (Grandjany, Marcel). It was quite a challenge getting five harps to play in unison, but we pulled it off.
The week before we played our spring ensemble concert at Temple University's Rock Hall. We tried out a new arrangement of the Water Music Suite (Handel, George Frideric), arranged by Lynn Williams, our featured interviewee in this month's Harp Column. Here's the "Allegro" from her collection. And of course no ensemble can go wrong playing a little Ortiz. Here's "Llano" from his Flexible Ensemble Collection, Vol. 1. Enjoy!
Sounds lovely!! :-) Well done too everyone!
Glorious! Thank you for sharing!
Thank you so much for sharing the performance of the Aria! One doesn't hear it played in public these days, as much as we would like. I have the LP recording of Taka Kling performing it with the Louisville Symphony and it became my favorite piece. This smaller version is just as inspiring, with the added joy of watching these gifted young players. Congratulations!
End of an Era
Last week, famed harp retailer Sylvia Woods announced that she would be moving to Hawaii and subsequently changing the way she operates her harp business.
I'm happy for her and glad I scored some great bargains but I'm also a little sad. When I joined the harp world, I would spend ages poring over The Sylvia Woods and Melody's catalogs. I picked my dream harps from their pages, knowing that as much as I loved my little 22 string, I would someday have a full-sized folk harp. I admired the Guinness gift items with the harp logos, the harp angels and large variety of accessories, such as benches, tuners, carts and stand lights, to make harping a little easier. I made long wishlists of CDs. Most of all, I dreamed of traveling to Houston or California to visit their showrooms. Melody's and Sylvia Woods both downsized a few years back and changed their showrooms.
Granted, it's a lot easier now than it was twenty years ago to visit a harp convention of some sort and try harps galore and paw through bins of harp jewelry and music. There are also wonderful sources of independent music just a click away. But there's not quite the one stop shopping there used to be. It's just change and not necessarily a bad one but I'm still a little sad.
I know how you feel, Jennifer. when I got the email from Sylvia, I was happy for her, and sad for me! I bought my first harp from her, before she had a showroom, and was operating out of her garage. The harp I bought, a Triplett "Celtic" model (no longer made), was a full sized harp that she had been using for her students. It was $1800. I was so panicked about the expense (22 years ago!), but I recently sold it to a student of mine for $1500, and its tone has only gotten better over the years. When I lived in LA I visited the showroom frequently, knew the staff there, and loved being able to peruse anything and everything related to harps. And she used to carry soooo many harps! It was such an inspiration. Sylvia, you opened the door to the harp for so many of us. Thank you!!
Lousy Weather and other gigs I probably shouldn't have played
Last weekend I found myself wrapped in several layers of wool playing my harp as the temperature peaked at 45 degrees. I love outdoor gigs but there are times I question my sanity. And it’s not just outdoor gigs either. Those of us in the Midwest have experienced a prolonged early spring/late winter with freezing rain and snow into mid-May. Just a few weeks ago, I had a white knuckle drive to a funeral in another town as I dealt with high winds and freezing rain. I guess I’ve never encountered a tornado or hail during a gig. However, there was the time the mother of the bride stood looking out the window as it sprinkled saying “We could still have it out side!” Within less than fifteen minutes, the heavens opened and we were deluged. Glad we were already inside! There was also the time we had a Christmas Eve blizzard and the musicians were nearly the only ones in the church.
Having a weather clause helps but you need to be ready to enforce it and even be willing and able to suggest alternatives. It’s also one thing to calmly discuss weather conditions in a consulting session and another to deal with it on the day of the ceremony. There is nothing rational about a bride who has her heart set on an outdoor ceremony, even if it looks like the world is about to end! I am grateful to the bride who decided she didn’t really want to plan two ceremonies and just decided to have her wedding indoors as it ended up being over 100 degrees that day! I’ve also resolved not to take outdoor gigs outside of my “season”. The last two weddings I played really pushed the boundaries of what was safe for me and my harp. Plus, there was a lot of stress leading up to the gigs as I contemplated weather conditions.
That being said, having a nice long concert dress helps when you have to wear long johns underneath! Heavy wool socks and fingerless gloves don’t look out of place with Renaissance garb. For this last gig, a Renaissance Faire, I brought my harpsicle. The bright yellow paint was a little out of place but I didn’t need to worry quite as much about keeping my instrument safe. And, while I don’t want to do it again, I was surprisingly comfortable!
I got one: A few years ago, I was invited to perform at an outdoor Artwalk event one Friday in September. I was to perform right by the water fountain in my hometown of Owosso, MI. Pleased with the invite, I took my rental harp, which I was renting from a place in Jacksonville, FL, to the waterfall area, set everything up at a chosen spot and started performing for no more than about 45 minutes when a group of teenagers came along and start strumming their rock guitars WAY TOO LOUD!!! So loud that they drowned out my performance and drove the people who were listening to me away!! I was so upset! I was forced to pack up and leave! I never bother to tell the unruly teens to stop assuming that they were also invited to the Artwalk to perform as well. It turns out that they weren't. They just insinuate themselves in the event and blast their rock guitars out loud. I was on my way home bawling and upset when some really nice folks working at the printing shop near by invited me inside and perform music for them away from the unruly teens and I said "ok" and went inside and perform for the rest of the event even while the teen unruly music can still be heard. I was angry. Very angry. What's worse is that the person in charge of the Artwalk never new about what happened until it was too late and the Artwalk ended a few hours ago. She had to wait till Monday to call me up and apologize to me for what had happened. When people came to her wanting to know where I was at, she said at first she thought I was having problems with the harp, which is why I didn't show up it seems. But when she found out about what really happened to me at the event coming from one of the people at the printing shop, she got very upset as well. It turns out the teens who ruined my performance were not invited at all to the event. If she would've know this sooner, she would've put a stop to it at once. But no, instead, they just came along and blasted out their guitars without interference. They were causing all this ruckus right across from where I was performing at, never caring about me or anything else. I was angry. I demanded restitution. Instead, I got an apology from the one in charge of the Artwalk who agree to make sure that it doesn't happened again. The next time she invites me over to the Artwalk again, I hope she'll make certain that there will be no other musicians around to interfere with my harp playing again; I had to put on a benefit concert at my church a month later to make up for the unpleasant incident at the Artwalk.
You always gotta wonder about people who want to have outdoor weddings in overtly public places. I had a great-paying gig (so I'm not about to complain too heavily) playing with some other musicians for a wedding in Battery Park, NYC--yes, Battery Park in a small plaza right on the water across from the Statue of Liberty. Beautiful 95+ degree day and everybody and his brother out walking in the park trying to catch a breeze. I positioned myself in the one sliver of shade to be found anywhere near this ceremony. Everybody who came for the wedding stood in the nearby restaurant in the AC until the last possible moment before the ceremony was to begin. So the bride makes her entrance. And when the minister began to speak a nearby assembly of young "gentleman" proceeded to have a loud profanity-laced "conversation"--you couldn't hear the ceremony. One of the groomsmen decided to petition them to cease, at which point they only grew louder and hurled their invectives directly at him. Now enter the sound effects of a sightseeing helicopter overhead flying overhead, followed by the foghorns of tugs and barges on the river, and to top it all off, a nearby picnic putting the salsa music on their boom box. Mercifully the ceremony was 10 minutes. You never saw such a quick recessional in your life--which was great for the musicians because the wedding people all retreated to that restaurant for the AC and the reception.
Well, this weekend was lovely! Though Sherri and Kathy, I have had similar experiences. One of our most popular outdoor wedding spots is right on a main street. There is always some joker who thinks it's funny to drive back and forth honking his horn during the ceremony!
A great new concerto for harp, strings and tubolar bells
Really honored to play the première on May 15, 2013
--Raoul,Vibrarpa, Harp & Vibes
99% A-live on a snowing day, the new album by VIBRARPA, in free download!
The unique duo in the world VIBRARPA, with Raoul Moretti on electroacustic harp & effects and Marco Bianchi on vibraphone is coming up with the second album "99%", a live recording of the new concert with new compositions.
In 2002 Vibrarpa invented a duo and a repertoire with different arrangements from classical to contemporary music, from jazz to pop and a couple of original pieces, now Raoul and Marco write their repertoire opening a new way:
The result is a very personal style,where irregular musical forms and odd time stay side by side to flowing melodies and sharp harmonies, in continue evolution with strong artistic tension.
Vibrarpa without crowd founding decide to auto produce and distribute the album in Creative Commons on the platform Soundcloud:
I've been teaching voice for three or four years. It started with a phone call from a local church at which I'd sung, "Do you think you could teach us how to sing?" Well.... yes, I think I could. And so my teaching ministry was born. I spent the first two years teaching church vocalists and choirs how to sing without charging for it. As I gained experience, I also gained a few paying students -- and learned that I absolutely love to teach! Then, last month, I won a grant from the NH State Council on the Arts, and in July I'm going to Boston for a vocal pedagogy seminar.
Teaching harp started the same way: a friend said to me, "My mother bought a harp years ago, and has always wanted to learn to play. Could you teach her?" Well.... no, but I could show her what I know. "Showing her what I know" became two years of teaching (the limit I've set for free lessons), and a little more than a year into it, I realized that 1. I could teach novice lever harp, and 2. the only way I'd ever create a harp circle here would be to raise up the harpers myself. One college enrichment course and a harp workshop later, I taught my first paying student last night.
It was fantastic. As with voice students, harp students come in flavors. This student is the "asks intelligent questions, practices, pursues information on her own between lessons, enthusiastic, open to learning" flavor (aka, Madagascar Chocolate).
If you've ever had Madagascar Chocolate, you understand how happy I am.
We met last week to go over studio policies, take care of the rental contract, etc. and she was itching to start playing, so I gave her a chord progression to work on before her first lesson. She came to her lesson five days later with the chord progression conquered, knowing the names of all the strings (on the harp and in the chords), and with a favorite tune she had picked out on the harp.
I am in Teacher Heaven. I'm not sure how long I'll have anything of value to pass on to her, but I'll simply tell her when I can't help her anymore -- and in the meantime, I'll have to work to keep her engaged and moving along as fast as she would like, which is a delicious challenge.
Those are fun! I'm glad you had a good time. Did you get to give any mini-lessons to interested people?
Raga, by Caroline LizotteHarp Duo Toronto (Emily Belvedere and Sophie Baird-Daniel) plays "Raga".
I heard a performance by Duo Scorpio this week, which included the piece Raga (Lizotte, Caroline). It's so much fun to play! The piece calls for percussion instruments including suspended cymbal, finger cymbals, and ankle bells, along with extended harp techniques like tuning key slides and using a rubber mallet on the wire strings to imitate the sounds of a whale. Here is the piece performed by Harp Duo Toronto (Emily Belvedere and Sophie Baird-Daniel) . Read more about Canadian harpist/composer Caroline Lizotte, who we featured in a Harp Column interview, at calyane.com.
Oh my goodness, that rubber mallet technique is amazing! I might just have to go out and get one.
Adele- Rolling in the Deep
Getting nine-year-olds to care about Mozart is tough, especially when they haven't grown up in a musical family. Classical music to my Play on Philly class is a snooty, uppity, useless genre for old people and they want little to do with it. If you plop a piece down in front of them by someone who they've never heard of and whose name they can't pronounce, the likelihood that they're going to spend the next three months practicing it goes way down, along with their concentration. "Engagement...