You see it in the back – waaaaay in the back of the orchestra – but when have you seen a harpist leading an orchestra? Not just out of the background – but WAY in the front?

I saw it first in my mind. Nearly two decades ago.  It was so real – in my mind – that it was as if it had already happened. Only it hadn’t. Only it HAD.  It existed in my mind, complete, whole, absolute. And by the time it actually did exist in real life,  it seemed like the most natural thing in the world.  To me.

I forget that, to other people, it’s unusual even though I do it all the time [Tour Schedule].

I forget that, to most people, it isn't natural at all Click To Tweet

Last night I showed music director Tim Maurice this short little video of orchestra clips I made last week and he said, “Wow! I’ve never seen a harpist DO that – stand in front of an orchestra like that.  I’ve never seen that kind of spectrum of expression – not just pretty harp music but, like – thrashing metal. Not in the BACK but in the FRONT singing, playing, leading – like the LEADING FORCE.

I said, “Yiyi! Tim, wait!! I have to write this down!”

He said, “MULTI-genre.  It’s like you’re just doing everything to play to your personal strengths.”

I said, “Right! Yes – yes!! That’s what I coach people to do – and that’s what I’m always working on!  Most people seem to think of music in genres but I’m really just thinking ‘How many different things could I transform this instrument into?’ I guess it’s more like trying to be a magician than trying to be a particular kind of musician.”

He said, “That reminds me of Philippe Petit – the guy who’s best known for tight-rope walking between the Twin Towers in NYC – but really, he’s all about transformation – about how many different things can you find or make out of one thing…”

“YES!” I said, “YEEESSSS!!! That’s what we did at the Barn with Tony Montanaro!! When I was so frustrated feeling like I was stuck behind the harp I took my harp to the Celebration Barn to work with Tony,who became my creative mentor.

“Tony called that game ‘Rounds’ – we’d put an object on the floor and each of us – maybe 12 or 16 people, all sitting around it, would go up and engage with it in a different way – over and over for hours.  The ‘thing’ would become a thousand different things.

So I put my harp in the middle of the circle and said 'Do it with THIS!' Click To Tweet

“And so I put my harp in the middle of the circle and I said – ‘Do it with THIS’ …”

“Is it really OK?” people said.  “Can we move it? Aren’t we going to break it?”

And I said, “You won’t break it.  And I don’t care.  Because it’s breaking ME right now.”

Within 15 minutes my whole idea of what a harp could be was exploded.  It was a mountain, a bronco, a prison, a ski slope, a cooking utility, a weapon … all revealed to me by people who’d never touched a harp before – all exploding the idea of what it was supposed to be — unlocking what it could be.  And it was never, ever the same for me after that. (And no, it didn’t break – it’s still resonating away to this day)

Within 15 minutes my whole idea of what a harp could be was exploded. Click To Tweet

Its whole shape and meaning exploded in my mind.  And over the next decade or so, it changed in real life.  I told my vision to the CAMAC harp company and they began to develop the instrument I’d envisioned, I started to write the music for symphony orchestra, orchestras hired me as a soloist and eventually I won a Grammy Nomination for my show with symphony orchestra, “Invention & Alchemy.”

I realize now, looking back, that I composed my own leadership – one note at at time.  I wrote my role in the front, collaborating with conductors and the huge spectacular beasts that are symphony orchestras.

Wearing the harp.  Weilding it.  Leading with it.

The most natural thing in the world.

I forget that – to most people – it isn’t.

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