The Making of Â Maverick Harpist
I was brought up spoiled by excellent music around me all the time. But it took a long time for me to see that.
I was born in Denver, Colorado, to very musical parents. They had met in college in choir class, and both continued singing vigorously throughout their lives. My father chose his church by who had the best music programs, and so Â I regularly attended choir rehearsal with my father because I loved listening to the rich harmonies. I learned what good direction can do because our directors were always serious about producing good music.
We lived mostly in Greeley, Colorado – famous for its cattle stink, and its wonderful music school and jazz festival. That meant we could – and did – attend lots of live music, usually several times per week between church rehearsals, church services, and university concerts.
The Cold Burn-out
But my child was also lonely and cold. My parents were perfectionists, and social misfits, and I grew up alone and afraid of making mistakes. I had to sneak around to practice without hearing harsh commentary. Although I had received excellent daily musical education from kindergarten on, it wasn’t enough. I burned out at age 15.
I left music for 27 years. I worked as a teacher and writer most of my life. I taught English composition and wrote sales copy for technical software (network systems and management, and storage/RAID systems…I loved it). But I got sick, very sick.
I had endometriosis, a reproductive disorder, which prevented me from having children.
Instead, I had four surgeries including a hysterectomy, and then faced the future that I had never imagined. I couldn’t work during this time because I was so exhausted from the pain and recovery. So I learned to paint, and studied at Ghost Ranch, where Georgia O’Keeffe lived and painted.
I met my husband, and four months after he proposed to me, his daughter was killed in a motorcycle accident. I figured if we had a chance of making it through the grief, it would be in his favorite place in the world – Hawaii. So we moved to the Big Island.
When we arrived on Hawai’i Island, we were both battered and really tired. I tried to get back in the saddle – I started learning to ride horses – but found that I was too weak to keep my balance.
Work with an acupuncturist showed me that was I needed was rest, real rest. So I went to bed and slept for about two years, 10-15 hours per day. And then gradually, I started to feel better. Hubby did, too.
Reiki Leads to the Harps…and Healing
It was during this time, that I was also working with a Reiki master, who is a type of energy healer. She suggested that I needed to return to my childhood and reclaim the parts of myself that I had sliced off in order to live. Music, and especially the harps, are a part of that slicing and recovering.
I bought the Pakistani harp. Every harp teacher will tell you not to do that, but I didn’t know. But I do know that the humble Pakistani harp has started a lot more harpists that we give it credit for.
My second harp was a Dusty Strings Allegro-26, which I still have as a student rental. I went to a Bluegrass jam in Kona without every being at one before. I didn’t have any music or any idea what I was doing, but I knew I had to just leap in.
Jazz is my first love, so I quickly found a couple of jazz/pop players and put together a trio. I was writing my own parts, and learning chord theory as fast as I could. I was scared out of my mind, but knew that this was my path. So I kept going.
I wanted to learn how harps are made and why they make the sound that they do. So I built 3 PVC pipe harps (designed by John Kovac), and a Paraguayan style harp (also by John). I learned so much about all the trade-offs that harp makers make as they design and build these instruments. It gave me a great respect for harp builders and helped me feel more relaxed about the cost of harps.
Then one day, Noche, came into my life. Noche, is a black Salvi electroacoustic harp. Wow, the sound from this harp is incredible. I have loved playing this harp. This was one of my practice spaces in Hawaii.
Campbell, California and Hilo, Hawaii
Today, I live in Campbell, California, though we are plotting our return to the Big Island at some point. It’s my journey that informs my music. By necessity, my music includes Nature, loneliness, travel, beauty, small dogs. It’s influenced by jazz, Celtic, classical, world, Hawaiian, country…all sorts of music.
My next projects are centered around the ocean, the whales, and the health of our waters. I’m working on music for a new CD centered on the 24-hour Chinese medicine clock. And I’m writing a full-length stage production, called “The Whale Hula Ballet.”
I continue to perform at concerts and events, and teach the Maverick Harpists Group, a small group of dedicated harpists and composers.