There’s nothing more beautiful this time of year than the sound of a harp playing and Mesa Public Schools is the only area school district offering a program dedicated to the stringed musical instrument.
The MPS Harp Program provides a unique and successful example of the inclusion of harp in a public-school music setting unlike any other school district and the students will show off their skills at the Harp Ensemble Winter Concert tomorrow, Dec. 5.
MPS Harp Specialist Charles Lynch said: “Mesa Public Schools is one of a handful of school districts across the country that offers harp to students. The program is now one of the largest and most established programs nationally and internationally. To my knowledge, it is the only program that offers harp to students district wide. Other harp programs across the country have limitations in availability to students, only being offered at arts magnet schools or through after-school programs.”
The MPS Harp Program was started in the fall of 1974 by retired Harp Specialist Karen Miller. Harp instruction started at one junior high and gradually expanded to other junior high schools and all senior high schools. The program is offered to students enrolled in band and/or orchestra at nine junior high schools and all six senior high schools. Currently there are 150 students enrolled in the program.
“I am currently in my second year, I replaced Karen Miller, who helped develop the program from its first year through her retirement,” Lynch said. “I actually started harp in this program as a student at Taylor Junior High and Mesa High School. I am thrilled to continue the development of a program that offered so much to me as a young MPS student.”
Monday’s free concert will also feature the freshmen harp ensembles and is entertaining for all ages.
“Hearing a harp in concert is often considered rare or a specialty by many,” Lynch said. “It is even more rare to get to hear several harps perform together. You will get to hear the MPS High School Harp Ensemble, which consists of seven members representing all six high schools. These students will perform a mix of classical harp ensemble repertoire, Latin American folk-inspired repertoire, and holiday classics. Harp Ensemble members will also join three separate freshmen ensembles to present holiday pieces with 10 to 12 harps.”
Since the harp is so unique, the student players have been asked what attracted them to the instrument and they wrote their answer to this question on paper ornaments that decorate the lobby tree that patrons can read before or after Monday’s concert.
“I think these students represent the best of music students across the district,” Lynch said. “They are fun, motivated, and hard-working students that continually challenge themselves and me as their teacher. I think the best thing about working with these students would have to be that they remind me what is important in making music and why we strive to better ourselves as musicians – it isn’t just about notes and technique – they remind me to continue to look at the bigger picture, have fun, and enjoy what we are working on together.”
The Harp Ensemble Winter Concert begins at 7 p.m. on Dec. 5 at the MPS Creative and Performing Arts Center Historic Irving Auditorium, 155 N. Center St.