ORANGE COUNTY, CHAPTER OF THE YEAR 2010-2011

by Susan Roth, President, and Alexandra Perdew

The Orange County Chapter of the American Harp Society is honored to receive the Chapter of the Year Award for 2010-2011.  On behalf of our chapter, we thank the AHS. Taking the mission statement of the American Harp Society as our guide, we try to provide high-quality programs which feature the harp to our membership and our community, and work to support the needs of our members through educational and cultural events. 

As a special focus on education, our chapter hosts several events from master classes and auditions to a very special seminar that we call the “Get into College” seminar.  Intended for high school students seeking admission to a music program in college, the two-part seminar featured lectures on such topics as strategies for writing the entrance essay, how to prepare for the audition, finding schools to fit individual career goals, how to track scores and achievements and how to obtain financial aid.  We collected an extensive catalogue of specialized information specifically targeting each applicant’s stated interests, such as the character and quality of the school’s harp department and other programs along with a targeted application strategy for each student. Students who participated left the seminar with their CVs complete and their essays written—ready for the next stage in their educational journey.

Along with holding the Scholarship Auditions and the Music Education Auditions, we had some exciting master classes for our youth and adult members. In January, Kathleen Bride of the Eastman School of Music held a master class with seven participants and gave a brief talk about becoming a musician as well as sharing her insight into college strategies.  She was the consummate teacher and inspired the audience with her encouragement and coaching.  In February, Sivan Magen, winner of the 2006 Israel Harp Competition, coached five participants and then treated the audience to a breathtaking performance of the Fauré Impromptu.  Mr. Magen helped the stage participants hone their pieces and also gave good pointers for the auditors. 

Another focus for our chapter was to help generate new music written for the harp. Over the past five years we have featured composers Daniel Catan, Paul Chihara, Jeffrey Jones, and Brian Kellenbach.  In 2010, Mr. Jones was specially commissioned to compose a piece for OC AHS which he entitled, Clouds and Chamber Music for String Quartet and Harp, and which was performed for the community by a Chapman University student String Quartet along with chapter youth harpists Catya Carothers, Hannah Chute, and Brianna Vlach.

Our chapter now hosts an annual “New Music Competition.” Fliers were sent to thirty-five universities, as well as to professional composers in the area.  Our first competition garnered fifteen submissions from professional composers, composition students, and harpists.  The submissions ranged from beginning to advanced and included both solo and chamber pieces. The composition winner was Lucas Flloyd, a student at Biola University, for his composition Hypnotic Dances for harp and alto flute. This competition was supported by a grant from the American Harp Society and will be premiered later this year by harpist Mary Dropkin at a special gala that we are hosting honoring the late Hollywood legend Dorothy Remsen, along with celebrating the role of the harp in the motion picture industry. 

Special care is taken to highlight the versatility of the harp in our programs.  We host concerts in a variety of genres from classical to Celtic, jazz to rock, Paraguayan to gospel and hold concerts featuring both lever and pedal harps.  OC AHS hosted Celtic artists Moya Brenna and Cormac De Barra in September, and Grainne Hambly and William Jackson in October; we also hosted concert harpist Ina Zdorovetchi for a solo recital in November.  Along with their performances, the artists also taught master classes in performance and workshops in performance, music therapy and composition. 

Our chapter works to promote volunteerism and outreach, too. We have instituted a Public Outreach Chairperson to organize volunteers who will do everything from playing in the community to helping to organize and promote events. Our outreach concerts started in 2009 when we started taking part in the Holiday Extravaganza at Torrance Memorial Hospital by providing a harp ensemble led by Elaine Litster and continued last year at the Emerald Isle Retirement Community where the winners of the scholarship competition performed.
Our chapter is always looking for new ways to be useful and meaningful for our members.  We strive to reach out to all people who love the harp and work to bring to them events which will add to their joy in their harp lives.  We are over fifty members strong and growing, and look to the future with enthusiastic eyes. I would like to thank my predecessor, Brian Noel, who served as President during the award winning 2010-2011 season of OC AHS, along with his Executive Board for all of their hard work and high standards.