ShruDeLi Ownbey



From the moment I stepped off the bus in 1986 at the AHS Conference held at UCLA, I became a fan of the American Harp Society, Inc. Dorothy Remson held out her hand, called me by my first name, and welcomed me to Los Angeles.  I never forgot that personal touch.  This event made me want to attend every subsequent AHS Conference.  The icons in the harp world are all around you listening, learning, and contributing.

I have been part of organizing three AHS Summer Institutes in Utah and it has been a privilege to work with people I value as friends both locally and nationally.  2003 was held at the University of Utah, 2009 at Westminster College, and 2015 at Utah State University.  I can tell you it has been an education! 

I learned there are many “bosses” during the Summer Institute and AHS National Competition and one can only understand the system by rolling up your sleeves and working hard.  We are trained as harpists, not conference organizers but we are called to step into those roles for the greater good of the harp world and we do so willingly.

First, there are the needs of the fabulous American Harp Society’s National Competition.  They work hard to make the experience fair to each competitor. 

Second, as mandated in the AHS Bylaws, there are long hours of spent in meetings of the Board of Directors and Executive Committee and those people work all year to deal with the issues of the American Harp Society.  These people donate their time and try to represent all of us. 

Third, in alternating years, there are the needs of either the Foundation Awards or the Lyon & Healy Awards.  These two organizations contribute thousands of dollars to the education of young harpists through scholarships and cash awards. 

Fourth, there are the classes and concerts presented by harpists at their own expense.  No one is compensated for their participation as presenters.  The presenters share their discoveries with us because they are passionate about what they have been doing.

Every time you look at the stage or classroom and see all of the harps in front of you, we need to realize they have been loaned, tuned, and regulated by local harpists or Lyon & Healy.  We need to thank many people who have sacrificed their instruments during the week.  All of the competitions, concerts and presentations are taking place through the donations of harps by Lyon & Healy and the local harpists.

When I receive this award, it is with complete understanding that my committee members Anamae Anderson, David Day and Chilali Hugo have contributed as much to the success of these three AHS Summer Institutes.  Thank you.

ShruDeLi Ownbey


ShruDeLi Smith Ownbey received her BA, MA from the University of Utah 1963 – 1971.  During that time, she took a hiatus to attend the Curtis Institute of Music 1966 – 1968. 

In the summers of 1962 and 1963 she attended the Music Academy of the West and received the award for the “most improved student.”  This study was developed from her being glued to the bench of the rehearsal pianist and turning pages.  It was a great way to learn about opera from great teachers.  The harp part was much easier to play once the entire opera was studied from the singers’ perspective.

One of the most satisfying accomplishments has been to teach students as young as 2 ½ to play the harp.  For 31 years ShruDeLi has used the Suzuki Mother-Tongue Method to teach the instrument.  During this time, she was adjunct professor eight years at the BYU and 21 years at the University of Utah but the pleasure of beginning young students and being part of their lives for 18 years has surpassed all other teaching experiences.

As a young student she soloed twice with the Utah Symphony on their Salute to Youth Concert series.  ShruDeLi played professionally for 30 years with the Utah Symphony and the Honolulu Symphony.

Her husband Ray Ownbey, son Micah Ownbey, daughter-in-law Casey Murphy, and granddaughter Iris are all part of her cheering squad.