Meet the Student Harpists: Charles Stacy

Walking into his first harp lesson, Charles Stacy ’16 toyed with the harp and mistakenly thought the instrument was out of tune. Stacy described to The Phillipian that he immediately adjusted the strings to his liking. But it wasn’t until after the lesson started that Emily Lewis, Adjunct Instructor in Music, asked why the instrument sounded so high, and Stacy realized his error in changing the strings.

“I don’t know what made me think all the strings had gone flat in the same level, all of them had been tuned a half step flat, but I thought that. That was a really funny moment, because we had to spend the rest of the lesson talking while we tuned everything back to normal,” said Stacy.

Stacy started playing the harp at the start of Winter Term his Upper Year. Since then, he has been taking weekly lessons on campus with Lewis. Although Stacy had to drop the instrument this Fall Term due to course work, he plans on resuming the instrument again next term.

“If I didn’t come to Andover, I wouldn’t have started taking the harp,” said Stacy. “It’s really easy to reach out to faculty and staff here and try to arrange something like [taking harp lessons]. I also had interacted with [Lewis] before, and she knew I was a composer, and we talked about the possibilities about taking lessons through the lens of me trying to get better at writing for [the harp].”

In addition to the harp, Stacy has an interest in many areas of music including singing and musical composition, as well as playing the violin, saxophone, French horn and piano. Stacy was inspired to learn the harp in order to improve his compositional skills.

“First of all, I’m a composer, and I use the harp a lot. My motivation to start learning the harp was to get better acquainted with the instrument. Not only is it kind of a cool instrument that very few people play, but it’s also one of the hardest to write well for. As a composer, there are a lot of quirks about the harp when writing for it that a lot of people are not aware of,” said Stacy.

Although the harp’s uniqueness makes it difficult to compose for, it is also the reason why Stacy frequently uses the instrument in his compositions.

“[The harp] adds a completely different color than any other instrument. It’s not the loudest, but in dramatic moments it can really get loud with all the glissandos, [a continuous slide between notes]. It creates a lot of build-up to a great moment; it can add suspense. It’s a very versatile instrument in the terms of what mood the orchestra is trying to convey,” said Stacy.

During his Junior year, Stacy played in the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra (BPYO) and is currently a member of both the Academy Symphony and Chamber Orchestras on campus. Stacy’s experience in orchestras taught him the effect a harp could have on the sound of a piece.

“Being a harpist in an orchestra is one of the coolest things I could imagine. Harp is not really a sight-readable instrument, [an instrument where a person can play a part on the spot]… I’ve been in an orchestra where the harpists joins for maybe the last rehearsal, and once the harp starts playing, everyone is like, ‘Whoa, what is that cool sound?’” said Stacy.