What kind of crazy person begins playing the harp at 60 years old? Why would I DO such a thing? WHY NOT??
I am already very involved musically: singing, directing a choir, substituting occasionally on keyboard for church service. My prior background also includes musical theater and many, many years of choral singing. So, while I am not a “professional” musician, I do have a certain amount of experience and knowledge to bring to this new effort.
So, you might think that picking up a new instrument would be easy, right? Um, actually – no.
The harp makes intuitive sense to me as an instrument. Roughly, take the strings inside a piano and make them vertical and visible, and you have a harp. Well, it’s a little more complicated than that, but this gives you a rough idea. So my piano background helps me to organize my brain musically, even though it’s never been my primary instrument.
However, as with any new instrument, it takes a while to develop the physical dexterity and technique required to create beautiful music with my harp. The problem here is that inside my head I already hear EXACTLY what I want to play. But my fingers and technique are not up to that task. So, in an online class populated with world class harpists, I have often been the one playing at the level of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” OUCH. That’s ego-bruising for sure!
I have been blessed so far to learn from two amazing harpists – Laurie Riley for private Skype lessons, and Deborah Henson-Conant for online classes and the “Harness Your Muse” mentorship program. I was recently Skyping with Laurie and bemoaning the fact that I felt I had not made enough progress on a piece of music. She started shaking her head, albeit with a huge smile, and asked me to remind her how long I had been taking lessons.When I mentioned that it was a mere 2 years, her response was “Uh-huh.” More smiling. OK, I get it. I think, just because I am older and have other musical background, that this should be easier and faster. I am doing that thing that I always do where my expectations exceed reality.
HERE’S THE REALLY NEAT PART. I’ve had to make peace with the fact that most of my professional harping friends have been playing for 20 years or more.There are probably not enough years left in my life to get THAT good. SO WHAT? The harp, even played relatively simply, makes a gorgeous musical sound. And this new adventure provides me with an energizing creativity that’s been missing from my life for a while now. New dreams, new challenges! I don’t want to go to a Conservatory style school for multiple years and win performance awards. I don’t need to be a world famous musician. I just need to keep making music and finding ways to share it with joy.