In 2005, I made a decision that most musicians would question. I wanted to learn how to play the harp. I had always loved the harp because
I used to play in a trio called Troissant which had an oboe, violin, and harp. We played a lot of jobs in Amarillo (weddings, receptions, concerts, etc.). I wanted to play something that would allow me to go to nursing homes or privates homes to play for elderly, homebound, or sick people because I was interested in the harp therapy idea. The big concert harp was definitely out of the question because it was technically way over my head, too expensive, and too big for me to handle so I investigated all the different kinds of celtic or folk harps on the internet. It was fascinating seeing all the different sizes and shapes offered. I finally selected a Lorraine 29 string floor harp from Stoney End
in Red Wing, MN. The 29 strings allowed me to play four octaves from G at the bottom of the bass staff up to G an octave above the treble staff.
The harp was even more challenging than I had expected. Because I can play piano, I assumed the learning curve would be easier when going to harp but the only thing that made it easier was the fact that I could read treble and bass clef. After that, there were very few similarities between piano and harp. Often composers assume that all keyboard parts can be automatically played on the harp but I found out why that was not necessarily so.
I have been enjoying learning the harp. I am not studying with a teacher but I did get some good pointers from Amarillo Symphony harpists Stephanie Bowen and Olive Bernard. I have always admired their harp playing but when I started learning the harp I was extremely impressed with their abilities. People do not realize the challenges of the harp. For example, if you play in a room where the floor or carpet is the same color as your strings (red, blue, black, or vanilla color), you have a difficult time seeing your strings because they "dissapper". The color of the string blends with the floor color.
After getting more comfortable with harp playing, I decided to start arranging and composing some music for it. I have some of these pieces listed on this website under "List of Works"
Please be sure to visit the "Amaryllis Awakening"
page because there is a video of a blossom slowing opening. The background music is me playing a composition I wrote for the harp caled "A Garden Stroll"
I have been playing at some of the local nursing homes: Bivins Memorial, Childers Place, Bivins Village, and Ussery-Roan Veterans Home. I have enjoyed playing and interacting with the residents of these places. My husband's grandmother is a resident at Bivins Memorial and she always enjoys my little concerts there. I have also been playing harp for the Alzheimer's Units which is very interesting. The staff tells me that the harp especially keeps their residents very calm. It is fun to see some of the retirement residents so interested in the harp, they often say they would like to get one of their own to learn. I can honestly say from experience, it's never too late to learn.
After moving to Carbondale, Colorado in 2009 for my husband's new job, I began to inquire about playing harp for local nursing homes. I found a wonderful place at Heritage Park Care Center. They hired me to play once each month for three different units of the center which included the assisted living, nursing unit, and the Alzheimer's unit. I really enjoyed playing for them in the 4 years we were there. I looked forward to seeing all of them each month and learned a lot of new song titles to work up on the harp. (The country western song called "It's Hard to Be Humble" was one of the more unusual requests.) I even wrote a song about the center called The Heritage Park March! The center would have me play for their Christmas dinners, Mother's Day Teas, Valentine's brunch, and for their quarterly memorial services. I will always have a special feeling in my heart when I recall memories of playing there.
In 2013, my husband got a new job in Portland, Oregon. Soon after inquring in the area about playing harp for care centers, I was accepted by the Friendship Health Center and the Odd Fellows Assisted Living Center to provide an hour harp program each month. The centers and I been having lots of fun getting to know each other. I find the residents and the staff at both places to be so friendly and they all love the harp music. At Christmas time, I played for a sweet Christmas Party at the Friendship Health Center where two darling twin boys were visiting. They were fascinated by the harp, especially the one who stayed next to me through most of the program.