Alone Together

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Alone Together: Alison Reese is editor of Harp Column. She is a freelance performer and teacher in West Michigan.

Alison Reese is editor of Harp Column. She is a freelance performer and teacher in West Michigan.

Overcoming instrument isolation through other harpists’ stories.

Growing up in my small hometown, I was one of only two harpists. I was a kid, just starting lessons, and she was a nurse who played weddings and other gigs on the side. We had nothing in common beyond the harp, but I remember always being thrilled when I got to see her because she was the only one I knew who got this whole harp thing. She knew the struggles and the thrills, and she would come through with an extra third-octave E string in a pinch. The nearest harp teacher was at least a half hour away, and the only time I ever saw kids my age play the harp was at my teacher’s studio recital.

The harp is uncommon, as instruments go. That’s probably part of what draws some of us to it—harps aren’t a dime a dozen, and there is simply nothing like their sound. However, the instrument’s uniqueness also has its drawbacks.

Playing the harp can be a pretty lonesome endeavor. We spend most of our time practicing alone, and connecting with other harpists is tough when they are so few and far between. That’s where Harp Column comes in. In each issue of the magazine, we try to include something for every harpist out there. Whether you are a professional freelancer or an adult beginner, urban or rural, lever or pedal, we try to give you practical information you can use to help your harp life and maybe even make you feel like you’re not the only one struggling with how to play cross-unders or knowing how much to charge for a wedding gig. No matter where you fall on the harp spectrum, we try to make sure each issue has a nugget or two that has you saying “Why didn’t I think of that!” or “So that’s how you do it!” or even “See, it’s not just me!”

Now, I’m the first to admit that we are more successful at achieving this goal in some issues than in others, but I think every harpist out there will find something for them in this edition of Harp Column—and you might find it where you least expect it.

Take, for example, our interviews with the winner and runner-up of the International Harp Contest in Israel, YuYing Chen and Anaëlle Tourret on pgs. 20 and 23. They just took top honors at one of the world’s most prestigious harp competitions, which puts them in the top one percent of harpists on the planet right now. You might think there wouldn’t be much the other 99 percent of us could relate to, but they were surprisingly candid about issues we all deal with—how to balance harp with the rest of your life, dreaming big and falling short, and especially stagefright. I know, right? Stagefright.

From afar, world-class artists can seem almost superhuman, so the admission of performance anxiety or missed notes gives us a human element we can relate to. But what is fascinating about YuYing and Anaëlle is how each of them has successfully dealt with their weaknesses. I won’t spoil it for you, you can read their interviews and find out for yourself, but suffice it to say, the stages we play on might be different, but the struggles are the same.

Also in this issue, we take a look at the harp therapy movement. Again, you might think this is not your cup of tea, but this field has exploded in popularity in recent years, and you might be surprised to find out what it looks like today.

Don’t stop there, though. We’ve got Jaymee Haefner showing you how to find balance in your practicing (who doesn’t need that?), the logistics of a 143-harp concert, a fascinating conversation with Joanna Newsom, a perfect 10 in the CD review, exciting new fundamental books in the music review, and tax tips for harpists. We hope you’ll find something for you, and maybe even a little more. •

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About Author

Editor of Harp Column, freelance harpist, private teacher, hot yoga lover, and grammar geek.

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