So there I am – I’m at my first big harp gig in a fancy hotel. I’m subbing for the regular harpist. I’m in my early 20’s – I’ve only been playing about a year and a half.

I literally only know four pieces – and the gig is 4 hours long.  So I play them, and I play them, and I play them. And then this very handsome waiter sidles up to me, holding a pitcher of water, looks down at me, says “If you play those tunes one more time, I’m pouring this pitcher of water in your lap.” And he walks away.

 I still had two hours to go. I didn’t KNOW any other pieces. I could pick out a few melodies but that wasn’t PLAYING. I’d spend weeks learning a piece, getting every note exactly right. I was learning classical music.

But in that moment I needed to be able to create arrangements right there, right then on the spot or I was going to get fired and I was going to get doused.

I  needed to figure out how to MAKE MUSIC in the MOMENT and I needed to figure it out fast.

That’s the moment I started a completely different relationship with playing the harp. I realized I didn’t need to play perfect brilliant compositions in that situation. I was playing IN SERVICE of people eating. I needed to play MUSIC IN THE MOMENT with a simple melody that people knew — and that moment in that hotel was the moment I started developing a whole toolbox of skills that became a lifetime of improvisation – a lifetime of music in the moment.

I made it through that gig. I got hundreds of other gigs. And those simple tools opened up whole new world of how to play, how to have FUN with music, how to play WITH music.

I put all those tools together to create my online course for harp players called “Hip Harp Toolkit.”  


If you play the harp ... Join DHC's Hip Harp Academy

Deborah Henson-Conant's "Hip Harp Academy" online learning community is open for self-paced learning yearlong.  DHC personal guides each class in the Academy once a year.  Access to each guided class is limited to students who register before the 2nd week of class. Registration for the Fall Guided course, "HIp Harp TOOLKIT" is currently closed.  

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