While we were at the Ksenia Erdely International Competition, we met Carolyn Lund. Carolyn not only reached the semifinals of a very demanding competition, but did so while teaching fifty harp students a day. Yes, a day, in six group classes, with additional tuition in the evenings as well. That's a pretty amazing achievement, and what Carolyn does is also a pretty amazing job. Hear some of the results now, on camac-harps.com!
Carolyn is the artistic director of the Urban Youth Harp Ensemble, which is a harp education programme for disadvantaged youth in Atlanta, Georgia USA. It was established twelve years ago by Elisabeth Remy Johnson, principal harpist of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and Roselyn Lewis, a longtime Atlanta public schools music teacher known for exposing students to opera and African drums. Carolyn was appointed artistic director when Elisabeth retired from the project, while Roselyn remains at the helm preparing the grant applications that have always been the programme's entire source of funding.
"I see fifty students every day, divided into six classes, plus after-school tuition", Carolyn explains. "They can opt for harp class instead of band or chorus class, and while it is not possible to give fifty individual lessons, the idea is that the daily classes help them to advance quickly. We have fifteen harps, because none of the students are in a position to have their own harps at home, so all practice is done at school.
The students learn to play the harp, but also to read music and develop their general musicianship. Of course, most of them will not go on to be professional harpists, although in fact the programme's first student, Mason Morton, is currently now doing his performance doctorate with Ann Hobson Pilot in Boston - and he has achieved this through scholarships all the way, no loans at all. But whether students want to pursue the harp long-term or not, we have an honours group made up of the best students, and they go out and do professional gigs.
Mason Morton (at the harp) comes back to visit the current class