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New York, New York
USA

Harp Camp

Blog

A New York harpist trying to figure things out - and the mishaps and adventures that inevitably ensue.

Harp Camp

Kathryn Sloat

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I recently returned from a week teaching at the Connecticut Valley Harp Intensive. For a week I lived in the dorms with a bunch of teenage harpists, coached harp ensemble, taught workshops and harp lessons (as well as some knitting lessons) and hung out with the kids. I am completely exhausted, but I returned with a renewed sense of how much I love teaching and working with young harpists. 

From seeing demonstrations of carbon fiber harps to working with harp duo Beyond Pluck to rehearsing for our final concert, we had an action-packed week. I got to coach an ensemble of 5-6 harpists on two pieces, as well as on their parts for the all-camp harp ensemble (which, at 13-16 harps, was pretty epic). By the end of the week, they were even confident enough to take on performing one of their pieces without me conducting them. That piece actually went better than the other (which probably says something about my conducting skills) and I was so proud of them!

We had some exciting guests this year, including the people from Starlight Harps - currently the only makers of all-carbon fiber pedal harps. The kids and I all got to try playing on them. They're super light - less than 40 pounds - so they're very easy to carry. They're also very difficult to damage. It was fun (albeit a little frightening) watching these guys bang on the harps, pour water on them, and even stand them upside down to show how easy they are to move. 

Starlight harps can be played upside down?
Starlight harps can be played upside down?

One of the other really exciting guests we had was Beyond Pluck, a harp duo that plays a lot of really cool arrangements of popular songs as well as more traditional double harp fare. (If you haven't heard of them, check out their YouTube channel here). In addition to giving a workshop for the kids and playing a concert for us, the duo wrote a piece of all of us at camp to play. It was an arrangement of the Coldplay song Fly On, and it was pretty awesome. 

The view from my stand during a rehearsal of "Fly On" with the harp duo Beyond Pluck

The view from my stand during a rehearsal of "Fly On" with the harp duo Beyond Pluck

Beyond Pluck playing Bernard Andres' "Parvis," one of my favorite pieces for harp duo!

Beyond Pluck playing Bernard Andres' "Parvis," one of my favorite pieces for harp duo!

All of the harps in place for Rachel Miller's arrangement of Coldplay's "Fly On"

All of the harps in place for Rachel Miller's arrangement of Coldplay's "Fly On"

 

We also got a harp care workshop with a professional harp tech.

Rachael Galbraith from the Harp Connection talking about harp maintenance.
Rachael Galbraith from the Harp Connection talking about harp maintenance.

In addition to all of this fun harp stuff, our dorm counselor Caitlin kept the kids busy with activities like tie-dyeing, movie night, ice cream sundae-making, and crafts of all kinds. Another highlight of the week that Caitlin organizes is Color Wars - a kind of scavenger hunt in which the kids split up into two teams and follow clues to find the rubber chicken at the end of the hunt. The kids are so intense about it, and we just about died laughing watching them running around, yelling, trying to figure out all of her complicated clues. This year, she rewarded the winning team with a bucket of water balloons and encouraged them to ambush the other team. 

As always, I had such a great time at this camp, and all of the above barely scratches the surface. The students were talented and funny and hardworking, and it was great to see their progress throughout the week. It was especially awesome for me to see how much the returning students had improved since last year. I got so many thoughtful notes from the kids at the end of the week (including a few drawings of me), and I almost cried when I was presented with flowers and cards in front of the audience at the final concert. I will miss all of the staff and students so much, and I hope to see them all again next year!

PS About halfway through the week, when I started to become really tired and stressed from all the activities we were organizing, I realized that this is what public school teachers do EVERY SINGLE DAY. I can't even, guys. Anyone who says that school teachers are lazy is insane. To my music teacher friends - y'all are my heroes.