(First of all let me just say that playing for Street Scene was AMAZING. It was so much fun and was absolutely the best way to spend my birthday weekend).
Last Monday, I went to hear harpist Kristina Finch give a lecture recital. Kristina is a candidate for the Doctor of Musical Arts degree, and the intrepid leader and TA of the Eastman harp studio. Before becoming a DMA student here, she attended Florida State University for her master’s degree, and was also at Eastman for her bachelor’s.
First I asked Kristina how she got into the harp. "I started playing when I was eight years old. My elementary school music teacher was a harpist. She chose a group of us - I don’t really know what criteria she used to choose us - but she chose six girls, and sent us home with little sheets to have our parents sign. I don’t think my parents had any idea what they were getting into, but the school rented a harp and we all shared it… Honestly I don’t remember having a desire, before I was asked, to play the harp. I don’t know that I even thought of it.“
About six months after she started, an anonymous donor gave money for the school to buy the harp, and the program grew very quickly from there - Kristina recalls teaching beginning harp lessons to third graders when she herself was only in the fifth grade. It was then that she began taking private lessons with Barbara Chapman, the principal harpist with the Virginia Symphony. Barbara was a former student of Ms. Bride, our teacher at Eastman, and it was she who encouraged Kristina to come and study here with her. Kristina describes the school as "magical.”
Kristina loves to play chamber music, an interest she says goes back to her years in middle school and high school, when she played duets with her sister, who played the flute. She currently plays in a harp/saxophone ensemble with her boyfriend, which they call the Mana Duo. Because harp and sax ensembles are rare, they have built up a repertoire of transcriptions (like Ibert’s Entr'acte and Saint-Saens’ Fantaisie, originally for harp and violin) as well as commissioned works. Kristina describes him as a brilliant musician and says they work very well together. "It’s so separate from our personal relationship…. we communicate on a different level when we play together.“ One of their upcoming projects include a recital together at SUNY Fredonia. This summer they will move together to Florida where, she says, they will continue to play together and build an audience for their group.
Kristina gave her lecture recital on "Musical Exoticism in the Music of Marcel Tournier.” In her lecture, she talked about a specific piece by Tournier called “Au Hasard des ondes,” which is rarely performed and, as far as we know, has never been recorded. She calls the piece a musical tour around the world - it is a long, difficult work of nine movements, each of which depicts a different country (Japan, China, Africa, France, Scandinavia, Romania, and Italy). In her recital, Kristina talked about the ways that Tournier does this, and told me in our discussion earlier how knowing so much about the piece really helped her in playing it. I learned so much that I didn’t know about Marcel Tournier - like, for instance, that he taught students from all over the world at the Paris Conservatory. These students would bring him folk songs and musical traditions from their homeland, which he would then use as inspiration for his music. It was a fascinating lecture and Kristina’s playing was exquisite!!!
One of Kristina’s long-term goals is to become a harp professor at a university - a job which she feels she is not quite ready for yet. "My plan is to teach privately for ten years, gig, freelance, hopefully build a pretty significant career wherever I am. And then in ten, twenty, thirty years, apply for jobs at pretty significant places, and have the kind of experience to be able to give my students everything.“
I asked Kristina what inspired her to be a teacher.
"It’s about imparting knowledge. Giving to others the experiences and the life lessons that you’ve learned - I feel like I have a lot to give, and teaching is such a wonderful outlet for that. The saying "Those who can’t do, teach” is so wrong and backwards. I feel like if you’re a musician and you don’t want to teach, you are not in the right field. So much of what we do is about passing on to the next generation, and that’s something that really excites me.“
I totally agree. Thanks for talking to me, Kristina!