Checking in at the midpoint

It’s July and we’re about half way through the year. It is a good time to check in and see how we’re doing. While it is a good exercise to review goals, it is also an excellent time to review other important things. Especially those that we take for granted and think are taking care of themselves! Let’s start with….Posture!

Your posture really is the core of all your playing. That’s not just a play on words. Being able to hold yourself upright and to keep your arms up but relaxed, your hands in an appropriate position, and keep your core tight all take work. Are you ready for that work?

There are numerous resources available providing methods for strengthening your core. By incorporating appropriate exercises to strengthen your core you’ll be able to sit up straight with good balance for as long as needed with less fatigue. That means that your next long background gig will be easier. And your long practice session will definitely be easier to sit through. Your core works while you’re sitting and supports your back and your hips. A strong core will also help you avoid curling into the harp while you’re playing which can cause strain on the neck and increasing the possibility of injuring yourself. It also will provide you with the stable base from which you can build your good technique.

Of course, a strong core will also be good for you away from the harp assuring your balance and stability are better whether you’re carrying your harp or walking down the street. Strengthening your core isn’t just sit ups! Spend a little time online to learn ways to get stronger so you can play as long as you like!

* I am, of course, not an exercise physiologist or a physician – but you already knew that! Consult your physician before undertaking any exercise program.  Don’t do any of this if your physician tells you not to.  Seek specific advice from qualified individuals.  This information is presented for educational purposes only.  It does not replace or substitute professional advice from your physician, certified trainer, or any other health-care professional.  Use of the information on this site is solely at your own risk.  Don’t be daft – get the right help and don’t hurt yourself!


Going to Grandfather Mountain

Yes, I was just away for the Ohio Scottish Arts School – where we had a fantastic time and learned so many great tunes. I can hardly wait to get them solid (although right now they are chasing each other around my head, so we’re not there yet!).  But now, I’m away for the Harp Competition at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games at MacRae Meadows.  On Friday, I’ll be teaching a workshop.  And the big show – the Competition – is on Saturday 9th July (contact Moire for more information:  This is a Scottish Harp Society of America (SHSA) Sanctioned Competition and I’m delighted to have been invited to judge.

I’m very excited to be going – such a beautiful setting and it should be a lovely day.  I’m also looking forward to a unique Grandfather Mountain competition – I’ll be learning to play Lochaber trump.  Come out and play – compete or play for comments – either way you’ll learn a lot and have a great time!  See you there?

Plan your work – work your plan

Whew! Now that we’re back from Harpa and all the focused preparation for that, it would be easy to think that it’s time to slack off. Or because it’s summer we could argue that it’s a good time to chill a little. Or because it’s Wednesday, we could convince ourselves it’s ok to take a break. There are plenty of reasons to rationalize that we don’t need to work at practice. But these are exactly the sorts of time when reapplication of focus to practicing is precisely the right thing to do!

No matter what your level of play is, no matter how much you only play for amusement or play only as a profession, practice is still work. And like the work you do in your day job or the work you do around the house, your practice will go better if you make (and adhere to) a plan!

What should you plan to do? Well, you already know. You might not want to do it, but you know what your plan should include. Your plan needs to include elements that assure

  • that you know how much time you intend to work
  • that you spend your time effectively
  • that you don’t practice mistakes into what you know
  • that you learn new material
  • that you distribute your time across the things you love doing (playing things you already know?), the things that aren’t so much fun (etudes?), and the things you just don’t want to do (metronome?).

Be sure your plan includes all the necessary work.  These things may not happen every time you sit to practice, but having a plan assures that you remember to work on things over time.

Once you have a plan – make sure you actually work that plan!  Don’t go through the exercise of making a plan and then leaving it in a drawer.  Write it down – and keep it near your work place practice spot.  Set yourself up to succeed by checking it each and every time you practice so that you are always moving forward. Occasionally review your plan to make sure it is still pushing you toward your current and long term goals.

Do you have a practice plan? Do you use it?

It wouldn’t be summer without OSAS!

The summer really gets started with the Ohio Scottish Arts School or OSAS, presented by the Scottish American Cultural Society of Ohio at Oberlin College in Oberlin, OH. Each summer, for one week, the residents of this small college town get the joy of nearly continuous harp music (as well as pipe, fiddle, and dance music with drumming too!).

This year marks the 39th OSAS and it will be held June 24-30, 2017.  Really enhance the experience and kick off with participation in the Ohio Scottish Games the 23rd in Wellington, OH.

Coming to OSAS can be nearly a pilgrimage with some participants returning annually! The days are filled with learning tunes from stellar instructors in the aural tradition, lectures from those same instructors on other related and fascinating topics, and a little processing time to relax or practice. It’s harpharpharp! The evenings are filled with fun with the others jamming and sharing tunes we’ve learned, enjoying the evening air, snacks, and each evening also has a special event – the Instructor Concert, the Variety Show, every night, something wonderfully different and all OSAS.

If you’ve been to OSAS before, you’re calculating how you’re going to get there this summer. If you’ve never been to OSAS before – you cannot conceive how much you are going to learn, how much fun you’re going to have, how much you are going to bore your non-OSAS friends with stories when you get home – for months! You will laugh, you will work hard, you will have a great time, and you’ll start counting down to your next OSAS experience the day you get home.

For all the details go to

  • Photos shamelessly stolen off the OSAS website – I’m always having too much fun to stop and take pictures!

First Harp Quest this summer!

Change is good

For 21 years we have enjoyed Harp Camp, first Marianna and Kris, and then later me too. Every year we used the feedback we got from participants the previous year to modify our offering, always with an eye to making it better.  We know how much the people who came enjoyed it and how much fun we have putting it together – but we felt it was time to make a bigger change – a shift.  We realized that while Camp is a fun thing to look forward to happening in the summer, our lives with our harps set us on a QUEST!  Our quests are each different as we seek to learn what our harp is there to teach us.

So, in 2017, we begin a new journey – a new HARP QUEST.  Plan to join us for our new Journey – becoming what we’re meant to be.

Harp Quest will remain easily accessible to harpers from anywhere and at any level.  Our focus will be a short and intense experience that we will each take with us into the coming months and years – perhaps not fully appreciating what we have learned until much later.  But secure in knowing that we will get there – each of us.  And we’ll make part of the journey together!

Harp Quest will occur in the beautiful and bucolic valleys of South Central PA 11 – 13 August.  The setting is pastoral and relaxing – just the thing to learn and grow and go a little farther on the road we travel.

Kris and I will be your Guides.  We are both looking forward to a very personalized time of sharing and learning.  We will have fun, support one another, and work together to get as much from our lever harps as we can!  We will expand technical skills and exercise our brains.  As always, we will work on building healthy self-esteem and encourage ourselves to try new things.  We start where we are and build on that. We’ll work individually and together experiencing three days of creativity, sharing, and fun.

A Quest requires a small but mighty band – space is limited.  We’re looking forward to traveling with you!  For more information or a reservation form, Contact us.

Summertime…and the learning’s easy….

It is time to plan your summer harp activities! Each year I share with you summer harp events that I enjoy and get a lot from attending. So this year – let’s start with the Somerset Folk Harp Festival.

Wide ranging and diverse, the offerings at Somerset are top notch. With presenters from well-known icons including Debra Hensen-Conant and Kim Robertson as well as perennial favorites Grainne Hambly and William Jackson – what’s not to love?!?

Somerset’s diverse offerings assure that, no matter where you are on your harp journey, you will learn something. With an immense exhibit hall, concerts, workshops, and a new venue, you will have to see it to believe it. And as a very well attended festival, you’re going to see old friends and make some new ones! You’ll also be up close and personal to some major “harp heroes” so how could you miss that chance?!

There are over 30 presenters offering workshops in a number of areas including jazz, Celtic, Latin, technique, and more.  The theme is Narrow your Focus, Expand your Horizon.  There are four days of content so you can really immerse yourself. And of course, there are the concerts! All included in your registration!

Are you thinking, “Well, I’m just a beginner and I’d be too intimidated”, I say to you – pish posh! Workshop descriptions include a level so you can go into those with which you are most comfortable. In addition, workshops are hands on (you need your harp), demonstration (watch the tutor play), or lecture (no one plays you just learn!) so you’ll know before you go!

And I hope you’re not thinking that you could just jump online and get the same content?  While there are some good online opportunities, nothing will push you along your own harp lifeline like being in a room (or an entire hotel) of harpers learning not just in the workshops but in the hallways, over coffee, at lunch – you can’t beat IRL* for becoming a better harper – after all, that’s where the music happens!

Don’t miss the early registration discount – but you’ll need to act fast!  Early Bird registration closes 1 May which is right around the corner. Check out the website for all the information you need but be sure you get there!

*IRL – in real life, for those of you who spend less time online and more time IRL!


Looking ahead – mid-summer

The Somerset Folk Harp Festival, now in its 15th year, continues to be an excellent workshop – well worth your time! It is four days of tons of things to learn, see, do, and hear.

PrintAnd this year is an excellent opportunity for those of us who favor Celtic music. The moon and the stars just happened to align this year and there are three top harpers coming directly from Ireland: Grainne Hambly, Janet Harbison, and Kathleen Loughnane – wow!  In addition, the Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to William Jackson on Thursday night.  Billy has been one of many people’s earliest harp influence and he’s definitely been a Scottish music influence and musical icon for decades.  Celtic has always meant more than Irish and Scottish and this year Tristan LeGovic brings Brittany to the mix, delivering Breton music workshops (last year these were packed!). And don’t miss the opportunity to see Grainne & Billy performing in the very popular Celtic Kick-off on Thursday afternoon to get the festival off to a great start.

Not big on Celtic? No problem – one of the other wonderful things about Somerset is that there is an amazing diversity of workshops available to suit all tastes and skill levels. Deborah Henson-Conant will be there delivering her energy and teaching four workshops. She will also present her own full Sunday add-on Blues Improv Immersion (wow!).  And if that’s not enough, there will also be a Listening Room where you’ll be able to see Salieu Suso from The Gambia on the African kora on Saturday – this is an amazing instrument and you should not miss the opportunity to learn more about it.

For more information and to register go to: Go there soon and get the early-bird $100 discount if you sign-up by May 1! I will miss it this year (I’ll be in Scotland for the Harp the Highlands and Islands tour!) if you go, tell me what I missed!!