I recently attended the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s harp camp, and it was absolutely delightful. Given that I don’t live in San Francisco, my family and I flew up for a week, and my brother attended a Golden State Warriors Basketball Academy camp. My harp camp was only for five days, and we met from 12:30-4:30 for five days straight. On the last day, we held a concert.
I have been playing harp for a little while now, and I have played both pedal and lever harps. In my camp, there were a total of nine other people. 7 were on pedal, and 2 on lever, so we had both types. The conservatory provided the harps, which was good, because I didn’t have to bring my harp all the way up there. There was also a wide span of proficiency, but I was happy to note that everyone was very welcoming and supportive. Our program director, Dr. Jennifer Ellis, was also a great teacher, and she hosted a master class with us too, where we would play a solo piece for her and she would critique us.
In terms of the ensemble pieces, we were given them a few weeks before in order to practice. That was one of my only complaints, because the pieces weren’t given very far in advance, and so there wasn’t much time to practice. Additionally, because I didn’t have a harp at the hotel, I couldn’t practice after camp hours, but Dr. Ellis was willing to let me enter an hour before to get some practice in. Of the three ensemble pieces that we were given, there was one piece with three movements, one irish piece, and one classic harp ensemble piece. All pieces had multiple parts, and every person had at least one other person with the same part, so they weren’t playing alone.
Additionally, everyone had the option of playing a solo piece during their concert. Around five people decided to play, and five people opted out, so it was a balanced decision. When the concert came around, everyone played their solo pieces beautifully. There was a bit of time, so Dr. Ellis sat down and played some pieces, which was met with lots of applause, and then we all went on stage and played our ensemble pieces.
In addition to regular playing, we also had fun activities. Every day we would have a workshop after lunch, with different topics. These topics include performance techniques, history of harp, sight-reading practice, and sound effects (my personal favorite). We would also have a eurythmics break for around ten minutes.
Overall, I had a lot of fun at camp. I met 10 other harpists, played in a harp ensemble for the first time, and took a master class for the first time. It was a very positive experience. I only had two complaints – I didn’t have enough time to practice the ensemble pieces before the camp, and my fingers were hurting a lot because of the constant practice that I was doing.
I would definitely recommend this camp to anyone who plays the harp.
~ Kailyn L.