Rock Out With Your Harp Out

Harpists fine tune the harp's reputation

The harp is probably not the first instrument that comes to mind when you think of "rocking out."  However, hundreds of players are fine-tuning the instrument's reputation at the American Harp Society's summer institute at the University of North Texas.

"They expect to hear the really really pretty stuff that we always play and that stuff is fun and nice to play," said harpist Hannah Frye.

Contemporary musicians are changing that tune and plucking their way from classical to main stream.

"We are sometimes viewed as being a step behind.  I think it's critical for us to move beyond that," UNT Harp Professor Jaymee Haefner said.

Haefner organized the week-long institute where harpists come to learn, perform and break the mold.

"It fits everywhere," said harpist Jennifer Betzner.

"It's very available to play in jazz music or in a rock concert," said Frye.

Harpist Shanna Griffith said she's not sure if it will ever reach the "rock star" status of a guitar.

"It's hard to tote around," said Griffith. "We have to buy a car that will fit the harp. We have to measure the back of the car and make sure it fits before you buy the car."

Still, some of the most hip performers have found a spot for it in their shows.

"It's like the big icing on the cake if you have a harp in there. Even like Kanye West has a harpist now," said Betzner.

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