Competion is not for faint of Heart !

Some years back, in Asilomar, California, I entered the prestigious Lyon & Healy International Pop & Jazz Harp Competition.
I participated because I wanted to hear what other harpists were doing on their instruments. I wanted to learn from the classes that were being offered during the week long festival.

When I left for California, our two children were very young, 4 & 2 yrs. of age. I felt guilt ridden leaving them behind, but my husband told me not to worry, he encouraged me to go. I went.

I met many harpists including some that I knew from Florida, plus some great teachers. One of the harpists I met, Mary Amanda, had won in a previous competition. As we were walking and talking, she was fiddling with a fish-shaped water pistol. When I confided my fear and performance anxiety she told me if I didn’t relax & enjoy myself while I was playing, she would squirt me!

The performance being adjudicated included stage presence, musical interpretation, musical arranging as well as improvisation. Also a mystery lead sheet to arrange on the spot. All of the contestants picked their performance times out of a hat. I got 12:00 PM. Since it was over lunch, a few more harpists came in to listen, including Mary Amanda. When I heard my name called and came out on stage, I saw her in the back of the room waving that fish pistol. I smiled. The judges thought I looked like I was having a good time. Not ! I introduced the music & sat down to play. My mouth was dry, my palms were moist, and my heart was pounding in my chest. I felt as if I were dying! Sometime during my performance, a man walked up the front aisle of the theater & started asking questions. No idea what the guy wanted, but I was not distracted – I was in the zone. To conclude, I was happy with my performance. I felt I played well in spite of the nerves.

There were three winners, first, second & third place. I hoped I’d make the top three, but I listened to fine harpists who followed me, they were all playing well.

We were given the results later that day. At the time, I was on the phone, with my husband, Tim, telling him all about the out of body experience, when someone ran in the room and told me I won! I asked,”Third?” She shouted at me,”You won first place!” I screamed into the receiver that I won. I don’t know who was more excited, Tim or I? But he was the one that called all our friends, our family and told the most of our neighbors!

The rest of the week was a blur including the final concert where all the winners performed an encore.
The best part was coming home to my family. The second best part, we started working on our first CD, On Top of the World : )

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Bye bye Whitney

The end of an era came with a fund raiser for the new Whit Sidener building @ the University of Miami. Dozens of former students performed solo, duos & more to celebrate a fine teacher’s retirement. He will be missed.

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Don Quixote

Miami City Ballet is performing the full length ballet of “Don Quixote.” The musical score is a mix of many styles of mostly catchy tunes. Not much harp in this one so I get to listen to the orchestra, always a treat for the ears.

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Bye bye Whit !

The end of an era came with a fund raiser for the new Whit Sidener building @ the Frost Music School on the University of Miami campus. Whit, the leader of the Concert Jazz Band, stepped down in style after a lifetime of service, with a stylish concert to benefit the new wing in his honor. This concert started at 8:00 PM & went on well after midnight because everyone wanted to play. There were big bands & small groups, soloists & singers.
In a word, fantastic! Toasted & celebrated, a great legacy comes to a close. Whit will be missed.

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Stevie Wonderful

One year Stevie Wonder came to perform at the James L. Knight Center Arena. Musicians were hired to perform in the orchestra. Nightclub orchestra musicians have to be excellent sight readers because they do not get sufficient rehearsal time before they are on stage performing the show.
Before our first and only rehearsal began, Stevie’s conductor came over to me and said confidentially, “You might want to look at If It’s Magic, because it’s a solo with Stevie.” I knew the song from his CD called Song’s in the Key of Life, and I knew that on that recording, there was voice with harp. We got through the rehearsal without any big snafu’s in any of the other arrangements. It was time for dinner, and then we were on.
When big band or orchestra musicians have a solo during a live performance, and they perform it well while the pressure’s on, the other musicians show their approval by rubbing their feet back & forth on the floor letting the soloist know they thought the solo was great. They do the foot maneuver because they are unable to applaud the effort & achievement while onstage holding their instruments in their arms.
The show was running smoothly when “If It’s Magic” was called. I remember I could hear my heartbeat pounding loudly in my ears. My breathing was shallow. The conductor raised his baton signaling for me to begin the accompaniment. I played while Stevie sang, or Stevie sang while I played ! There were a lot of chord changes in the song, which meant the harpist had to dance on the foot pedals to change the chords. I was in deep concentration, trying to play well. Applause from the audience. It must have gone well ? Then I looked around the stage and I saw the smiles with the foot movement, well done : )

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We had a wonderful time last night with family & friends. Six of us boarded a boat @ Biscayne Point that cruised slowly down the Intra-coastal. It was a beautiful night for star gazing, crystal clear. The wine & cheese, excellent. We made our way towards south beach for dinner. We parked our boat @ the dock of the Standard Hotel.
That’s what I call an exceptional South Florida experience. Encore !

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Rocking Rachmaninoff !

Today, Sunday, is the last performance of Miami City Ballet’s Third Program called the “Masters.” I will miss the epic themes & exciting harmonies of Rachmaninoff’s “Symphonic Dances,” a musical masterpiece.

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Where there’s a Will … there’s a Way

The mind / body connection is very powerful. It was never more apparent to me than when I accidentally cut my third finger on my left hand. This was terrible news because I am the harpist in an orchestra. I had been practicing Miami City Ballet’s third program’s music for weeks to get it under my fingers. My diligence paid off ; the music was coming together nicely and I was prepared to perform it.
However, as we headed towards the hospital emergency ward with my finger bleeding profusely, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, this injury would prevent me from fulfilling my obligation to the Miami City Ballet’s Opus One Orchestra.
The X-ray showed that I hadn’t chipped the bone, or torn my tendon, but my worst fears were soon realized after the ER doctor told said it was going to take 4 – 6 weeks for the healing process to occur. Maybe months before the tingling sensation would disappear entirely.
Later that night, as I lay in bed, I was inconsolable, unable to sleep. Tossing & turning for hours, I felt my pulse in my throbbing sore finger. I was, in a word, gutted. I tried some calming yoga breaths to chase away the bad feelings to no avail. As the hours passed slowly by, I began to go over my harp part in my head. My brain was looking for a way to solve my problem. To alter my harp part so I might still perform it, albeit, minus my third finger,
The next morning, when I greeted my husband, I told him that I could play my ballet music without my third finger ! He looked at me skeptically, but as I played, I convinced him beyond a reasonable doubt. “Where there’s a will… there’s a way !”

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Musician’s Madness

Have you ever had a song running through your head that you just could not stop from playing ? Alas, you may have a come down with a serious ailment known to those in the music biz, as an ‘ear worm,’ aka the “Musician’s curse !” The difficulty lies in letting go of the exquisite melodies one has been trying to perfect on their instruments after endless hours of practice. Awake, the music continues to plague the artist as if it is on an endless loop. When your mind is at rest, readying for sleep, the music’s is still going strong. Not merely your own parts, the ones you were practicing, but the other voices of the orchestra, the strings, the winds, or the brass have taken over. When you wake, the next morning, the torture begins anew. You may try the absolutely 100% guaranteed effective cure known to work . . . Sing another song !

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Opus One Orchestra = Sublime

Our 2012 season opened with Stravinsky’s Apollo, Les Pattineurs ( the skaters ) & Piazolla’s Tango. The orchestra sounds fantastic & the dancers are enchanting … encore !

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