Summer Harp Academy 2018

This past week, I had the absolute joy of spending 8 days up at Lake Junaluska NC, assisting with the Summer Harp Academy.  SHA is a week-long intensive harp camp, led by Elzbieta Szmyt and Jan Jennings.  Ela is one of my teachers from Indiana University, so it was fantastic to get to see and spend time with her.  I had never met Jan before last week, but her reputation preceded her and it was great getting to know her a bit throughout the week.


Lake Junaluska and the Lambuth Inn

We spent the week at Lake Junaluska NC, which is a large complex of buildings and hotels arranged around a lake in the mountains.  The scenery was beautiful (I get to go to the nicest places!) and the hotel we stayed at – the Lambuth Inn – recently underwent a multi-million-dollar renovation.

The Lambuth Inn
The view from just the parking lot!


Throughout the Week

For the students, the week was filled with private lessons with Ela and Jan, masterclasses with Ela, harp ensemble, and several workshops and seminars led by Ela and Jan.  My job there was to assist Ela and Jan, move harps as needed, prepare rooms for whatever was scheduled next, tune harps (so much tuning!), and help students with anything they might want or need extra help with.  I also taught private sight reading lessons to about half of the students, while Aubrey (the other assistant) taught the other half.  We both ended up participating in some of the student harp ensembles as well, which is great because I love harp ensemble!

Ela called on my student April to help demonstrate something during a workshop.
Most students performed in at least one Masterclass, if not more.
Sometimes students would practice wherever they could find a place in the hotel…such as in front of the bathrooms.
A couple evenings, we moved 10 harps into the lobby and spent a few hours “jamming” with harp ensemble and sight reading.
Ensemble rehearsal, led by Ela.
All of the students for the 2018 SHA.


This is a short I video I took from one of the student ensemble rehearsals.  The piece they’re working on is “O’Carolan’s Concerto,” written by a famous Irish harper.


Faculty Recital

On Tuesday evening, we moved a couple harps to a local church for a faculty recital.  Ela and Jan both performed several pieces, while Aubrey and I each performed one solo.  Aubrey and I also each performed a duet with Ela.

Just one of the many reasons I love my car…2 full size concert grand pedal harps!
The Waynesville NC First United Methodist Church was beautiful and had fantastic acoustics for a harp recital.
Jan received about 20 random song titles from audience members, then improvised an almost 15 minute long medley of as many titles as she could. It was so impressive!

One of my students who attended the camp recorded this video of my solo.  I performed “Mallorca” by Isaac Albeniz, which I transcribed for the harp several years ago.


The duet that Ela and I performed is “Off She Goes & She’s Gone,” a medley of two Irish tunes, arranged by Deborah Henson-Conant.  I’ve always loved playing it, so I jumped on the chance to play it with Ela!  Here are clips from each of the tunes:


Student Recital

For the students, the week culminated in a student recital at the same local church on Saturday afternoon.  All of the ensembles performed their pieces, and each of the 17 students performed the solo that they had been focusing and working on during the week.

Ready for the student recital!

My student April attended SHA this year for the 2nd time and if there were awards given, I think she would definitely have received “Most Improved” by the end of the week!  She spent the week working on “Intermezzo” by Snoer, a nice piece that I came across a few months ago and thought would be a nice challenge for her.  She performed “Intermezzo” in the student recital on Saturday and wow-ed everyone with her talent!

So here is April Zhao, performing “Intermezzo” by Johannes Snoer!


Where to From Here?

I’m still recovering from the week at camp…I’m so tired!  But I’m looking forward to having some downtime in the coming weeks and months.  I have quite a few projects in the works that I’m looking forward to really digging into.  I’m also starting 2 new harp students this week, so I’m really looking forward to getting to work with them.  I’ve tentatively planned a Christmas/Winter recital in early December, so I might start preparing for that soon.

In the meantime, it will be nice to not have to travel for awhile.  This summer has been busy, I certainly won’t complain about a chance to rest!