I was recently invited to give a masterclass in Belgium at the annual harp festival and conference known as the Harpe Diem harpdag. Harpists from all across the country gathered in Leuven, at the magnificent Lemmensinstituut, for a day full of workshops and concerts. I had the pleasure of meeting and working with eight talented young harp students for the entire morning and well into the afternoon.
Even though it was a long and intense day, I still felt that the time I had with each student went by far too quickly. It was tempting to try to squeeze too much into the 20 or 30 minutes I had with each one, but instead I challenged myself to emphasize one main theme for each lesson. Each one was so different, because everyone is on their own path toward understanding this instrument. A sample of the day’s themes: the importance of reading the musical markings in the score, how to sit at the harp with a balanced and relaxed posture, rhythm, and finding the core of the piece you’re playing.
And as usual, I ended up learning just as much as the students. This masterclass marked the first time I have dared to teach a lesson in Dutch, and I was pleasantly surprised with how well it went. Though I did discover some unfortunate holes in my music vocabulary, it all worked out because I would just ask the audience, “How do you say phrase mark?” and they were happy to shout back suggestions. We settled on “verbindingsboog” – who would have guessed?!