It still feels so new! Life in Leonardtown

I am very excited that I have a new(ish) studio space! I’m having a great time teaching Harp and Piano to a whole different group of people and having the opportunity to be active in Southern Maryland again.

I’ve been kitting out the new space little by little. First it was carting the harps from Virginia (or borrowing…or both) and working from a delightful electronic keyboard. But time has been passing and I had gotten a piano specifically for the studio space (all 88 keys and everything!) as well as the keyboard. Having both really opens up some possibilities – so we’ll be able to do some interesting stuff as we progress.

Southern Maryland harp harpist lessons LeonardtownBut this weekend I got the icing for the cake – a new harp (ok, new to me – but that’s excellent because someone else has done all the hard work of breaking it in!). So now the studio harps are a Dusty Strings Crescendo 32 in Walnut and a Dusty Strings FH26, also Walnut. It sounds so smooth and mellow when we’re playing!

Of course, the unexplored space is between the harps and the pianos – with the electronics going, maybe we’ll do some overdubbing and see what kind of musical mayhem we can make – but that’ll come later, if there’s interest.

The studio is in Leonardtown, with its great small-town vibe and eclectic shops – and we’re so near the river we can look right out the window if we need inspiration! I’m delighted to have been invited to use this space at Coaching for the Voyage – what a great group of people to get to spend “work” days with! We are always looking for interesting potential collaboration spaces and I know something creative will come out of this – there’s a purpose for every opportunity! And being in Leonardtown – a recognized Arts and Entertainment District – there will be plenty of fun to share both at First Fridays soon to come and other events we haven’t even thought of!

Until then, lesson times are available and I’d love to work with you. I’m also pleased to be offering coaching as well. Coaching is for those who are relatively proficient at the instrument and don’t need or want regular lessons, but on occasion would like to “tune up” technique. I’m also offering consulting for those who are looking to stretch and flex their repertoire and would like feedback on presentation, composition or arranging. If you’re looking for a teacher in Southern Maryland leave me a comment and let me know – and I’ll look forward to meeting you!

How to select a teacher

There are teachers all over the world so selecting one can be a challenge.

Some are out of reach (they keep a very small studio or you’ve decided you wouldn’t be acceptable as a student).  Some aren’t a good fit (they don’t teach what you want to learn).  Some are just too far away.

So how do you select the best teacher for you?  Look for these things:

  • Approach – does their approach work with your way of learning?
  • Level – do they teach at a good level for you? A little stretch is good but no support or a big stretch may not work for you.
  • Time – be honest, do you have time for the lesson, the commute, and the expected practice?
  • Cost – again, be honest.  This is a recurring cost, so plan for it.
  • Content – do they teach what you want to learn?  If you are set on playing something specific (Folk? Orchestral? South American?) say so up front and work with someone who can help you get there.
  • Personality – again, be honest.  You have to enjoy the teacher enough to spend the time.  Don’t work with someone you don’t like.  This is a biggie.  Don’t take it personally – they won’t!  If it’s not a good fit, ask for suggestions for a better fit!

Teachers teach because they genuinely enjoy seeing their students develop, grow and eventually outgrow them – take them up on it!


What about after the lesson?

Whew! That’s over!

Hopefully you leave any lesson with your brain full. That’s why the notebook and recorder are so helpful – they make overflow space!

But what you do after the lesson is also important, before all that good content falls out of your head. Of course, you know you plan to practice and that will help, but what else could you do?  Here are some additional ideas:

  • Think! Away from your harp, really think about what you learned. What has already escaped you? Sometimes you’re not ready for what you learn – don’t worry, it will fall into place when you are! What puzzled you? Make a list and try to fill the gaps.
  • Review your notes. That will fill a number of gaps.
  • Review your recording. That will fill additional gaps.
  • Practice. No really, preferably as soon as possible! Really work what you learned into your head and your hands.
  • Start a new want list. Whether a regular lesson or the occasional workshop, get a leg up and start capturing what you’d like to learn next. Of course this is always in flux, but it helps to keep it up to date.

The lesson lasts longer than the hour – it will last as long as you work it in your head!

What do you bring to the lesson?

If you have already identified what you want to learn in your lesson, you are ready to prepare for the event. What will you need to bring to make the most of your lesson time?

Of course you will bring you – all ready to go, on time and tuned! But the following things will also help:

  • Notebook. Plan to take notes to help capture the gems you came for. You might think you’ll remember it all, but you won’t! You’re likely going to get full answers to your questions (your wants) and it will likely be a lot of information!
  • Recording device. Especially if you want me to be taught a tune. You won’t be able to play it until you have it in your head – which is best accomplished by listening to it. By the way, this doesn’t replace the notebook!
  • Music you are currently working. Even if you have it memorized, bring it so everyone can read it! Just bring it!
  • Your wants list. I swear there is a switch in the bench which evacuates your memory. Being able to state what you’re hoping to leave with will help you both focus on the most important things in the time you have.
  • Journal. Another memory aid, the place you have been collecting your thoughts – and an aid to sharing your progress (this can be your notebook if you’re already keeping a journal).
  • Your full attention. Enough said.
  • A confidence builder. I get it – there’s a lot of stress at a lesson, especially if you don’t have regular lessons. Anything to help you have a good lesson (maybe a “no fail” piece) is a good idea and will help you settle in.

Being ready will help you have a great lesson and learn a lot. Be ready!

What do you want?

I enjoy teaching lessons. I learn so much each time and I get to help someone learn – it’s a win-win! But sometimes it can be challenging. Teaching regular and recurring lessons to the students in my studio is fun and the progress (and pitfalls) are relatively easy to find.

But when I’m teaching one off lessons, figuring out what I can best offer can be difficult. That’s when my fervent hope is that the student will be able to tell me what they’d like to get from me. And few things are more frustrating than the answer, “I don’t know” or “Whatever you want”!

You are paying good money for the lesson, so it’s worth taking a few moments to figure out why you are there! Don’t know where to start? Here are a few ideas:

  • Consult your practice journal – what continuously crops up? Maybe that is something to work on?
  • Record yourself – review the recording and find what isn’t working for you (bring the recording if you think it will help).
  • Review your competition comments – judges are great at spotting things you could work on.
  • Are there things you never learned that you’d like to work on (Harmonics? Arpeggios? Key signatures?)?
  • Is there a specific tune you’ve heard me play that you’d like to learn (please don’t ask me to teach you a tune you haven’t heard me play – what if i don’t know it either?)?

Knowing what you want to get from the lesson before you go in will help both you and the teacher get as much as possible from the time you have. Even a vague idea will make your lesson better – and get you farther along your journey.

Back to School

It’s back to school time so it’s time to think about learning! This month we’ll focus on lessons. Whether you take regular lessons or catch as catch can, this is for you!

Do you take lessons? Sometimes the question is stated, “do you still take lessons?” Beyond the philosophical discussion of whether every day is a lesson, it’s a good question. You don’t have to have a regular weekly lesson, but I hope your answer is yes!

If your answer is no, you’re probably wondering what could possibly be gained. After all, you already know how to play. You’re a self-starter who finds and learns music on your own. You play well enough. Why would you need to take a lesson? You certainly don’t need regular lessons…do you?  Maybe you do – here are six good reasons to take a lesson (or a series of lessons).

  • To get a fresh perspective on your music
  • To spot and fix those bad habits that crop up on all of us
  • To learn something you didn’t know you needed to learn
  • To get your spark back
  • To refocus or refine your attitude
  • To avoid complacency

We all want to continue to grow and get better and a lesson can be a quick way to get there. There are many ways to schedule lessons – at workshops, at conferences, or with individual teachers.  And typically, teacher enjoy sharing so it’s a win-win for all!

I’m sure there are other, additional good reasons to take a lesson – let me know yours!

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!