I usually don’t ask myself that question; probably you don’t think much about it either. Mostly, I just know I am a harpist. I’ve been one nearly all my life.
But every now and then I have felt the need to examine it. What do I do as a harpist, and why? What is my purpose? What keeps drawing me back to the harp, even when things are difficult or my time is short? And what do I need to do to keep myself on the “harpist” path?
I recently attended the Summer Institute of the American Harp Society. It’s a wonderful event, held every other year, and focused on education. The AHS National Competition is held at the Institute as well. The finalists, who have been selected in a video audition process, perform the required repertoire for the judges and audience. It’s a wonderful opportunity for the young artists who compete, and the audience is treated to great performances by the next generation of harpists.
Those accomplished young performers were just the reminder I needed of what exactly it means to be a harpist. And no matter what kind of harpist you are – young, old, amateur, professional, classical, jazz, pop or folk – they can be an example to you too, and a reminder of the three (or maybe four) things you need to do to be a harpist, or any musician, for that matter.
You know you are a harpist when you:
1. Practice and play. Every day. This is the number one defining factor for all musicians. They spend their time making music. Make sure that you don’t let your beautiful instrument gather dust. Get in there and do what you were born to do!
2. Never stop learning. Learn new music. Take lessons regularly. Attend classes and workshops. Read books about music and musicians. Listen to recordings and go to concerts.
3. Teach others what you know and love. This is an optional one; not every musician chooses to teach. But for me personally, teaching is an important aspect of my musicianship. My teachers were so generous with me, and I feel called to do the same for my students. It’s about musical heritage and personal gratitude and without it, my musical life wouldn’t be complete.
4. Share your music with others. Share your music with those who haven’t experienced the harp the way you have. Celebrate your love of the harp with those who have the same passion. But don’t hide it under a rock. Live your music every day.