As she plucked the strings of her harp at a funeral in Fort Lauderdale, FL., Makenna Marshall ’18 suddenly forgot the next measures in her movement. Luckily, as Marshall described to The Phillipian, she quickly improvised a few chords and smoothly finished the piece.
“I messed up like eight times, and people came up to me afterwards and were like, ‘Wow, that was amazing!’” said Marshall. “No matter how many times I mess up [on the harp], no one [notices]… it’s really difficult sometimes, because I don’t know if I’m playing something right, since it sounds okay no matter what.”
Marshall is one of two students at Andover who plays the harp and takes lessons twice a week with Emily Lewis, Adjunct Instructor in Music. Marshall first began taking harp lessons a few weeks into her Junior year at Andover.
“A lot of people are involved in so much [at Andover], so you’re constantly looking for something to be passionate about [and] not just wasting your time. Coming [to Andover] allowed me to find something to be passionate about: the harp,” said Marshall.
Although she only started learning the instrument at Andover, her interest in the harp began when she took Irish step dance in middle school.
“I did Irish step dancing in middle school, and I heard lots of Celtic music,” Marshall said. “[Most of the Celtic music] included the harp so that’s where I got my base point [for the instrument]. Actually, a lot of songs I play are [Celtics songs], which I used to dance to.”
In the past year, Marshall made it a goal to help others through playing the harp. She is currently training to become certified for a therapy harp program that will allow her to play for patients at hospitals.
“[One of] my other goals is to start playing for profit, because it is something that’s in demand, like at art galleries. I’ve done it before; it’s easy and it makes people really happy. [Also], playing with the orchestra here would be amazing,” said Marshall.
After her first year of playing the harp, Marshall believes she’s grown as a harpist. Not only is she learning songs faster, but she is also improving her sight-reading and increasing her musical repertoire.
“[Sight-reading has] helped me expand musically, because I’m learning a lot more about classical music than I knew before,” Marshall said. “Previously on the harp I only played Celtic tunes, but now I’m playing movements from longer classical pieces, which is new to me.”
Marshall also believes her interest in the harp has improved her ability to continue doing things that might not come so easily to her.
“Before, with instruments, I’d kind of flake after a couple of weeks of not getting it. But with the harp, I spent this past summer practicing every day in my basement. I finally found something I am willing to try and do over and over again for weeks until I get it right,” said Marshall.