~Making harp a more relevant force in today’s music ~
Congratulations on your Latest EP, “Prelude”, after being introduced to your music by hearing ‘So alive’ I simply had to have more, lyrics that can be easily relatable, I imagine is a fan favorite, what can you tell me about this songs meaning to you?
Thank you so much! It’s my debut EP! I recently posted the lyrics to “So Alive” on my blog, after receiving so many requests from so many people to have them. It makes perfect sense, I guess, that a song with so much meaning would end up being everyone’s favorite. Niia and I wrote that song together on my apartment floor and Niia is the mastermind behind the lyrics and melody. The song is basically about me, navigating my way through this life not knowing what’s ahead, but still being okay or ‘so alive’ throughout the process — still even being okay, knowing that my path is a bit more clear to others, than myself (who knew the birds would be keeping my secrets?). I am a very blunt person when I speak so me writing lyrics would probably be a bad idea. Niia has a poetic way with words.
Highly educated in the musical field and cultured in the amount of artists you have worked with, what can you say are your influences for the art you create?
My immediate musical influences are Dorothy Ashby and Alice Coltrane. I’m also very drawn to the history of women like Frida Kahlo, Maria Callas, Nina Simone and Josephine baker. Their struggles are so significant to whom they ultimately became, and the successes that they achieved.
Although playing the harp has fallen behind in today’s “main stream” society, from your experiences what has been able to let you cross over and be so “in demand” today?
Having grown up in New York, listening to mainly urban music, that has always been ‘home’ for me, so it was a matter of bridging a gap between my background, and the nature of the traditional instrument I’ve chosen. I’m all about bridging gaps. Actually, my next venture is making a series of eco friendly notebooks to sell, with a portion of the proceeds going to an organzation that promotes sustainable living, and makes sure all economic backgrounds have access to fresh, organic produce! 2 completely different worlds there :)
The list of fellow artists you have worked with ranges from jazz artists such as – Jack Dejohnette, Ravi Coltrane, and Wycliffe Gordon to hip hop artists Common, Ryan Leslie, Cassie, Talib Kweli, and Drake, What has been a memorable moment on this journey for you?
Reading your question, it just looks crazy when all of those names are mentioned together! It’s all memorable. I would have to say that the most meaningful work has been with Ravi Coltrane, playing the music of his mother, the late Alice Coltrane. Her music has had a major influence on me, so to have the opportunity to play that music with him, and with her colleagues, is just incredible and sometimes surreal.
What artist do you hope to work with in the future?
My radar is on Flying Lotus, Marsha Ambrosius and Maxwell!
In addition where has your journey been able to take you to and expose your eyes to a culture you would not have seen otherwise?
Most recently, I spent a week in California preparing a concert of Alice Coltrane’s original sacred music — the music less known to the public, that is played and sung on her ashram in Agoura Hills, California. Although I had played some of that music before, it was my first time at an ashram, and gave me a glimpse of Hindu culture that I’ve never before seen.
Where would you like your musical journey to take you in the future?
I still have not yet left the country with my own trio — so I really want to do that…soon! Japan, Brazil, France…I’m ready to go!
Currently not only have you released you own EP, in addition you perform with your trio as a soloist, regularly as part of The Workman String Summit, led by bassist, Reggie Workman; the Laura Kahle Quintet, led by composer and trumpeter, Laura Kahle and with Bill Lee and the Natural Spirit Orchestra. . You are also a private teacher in New York and are a staff member at harp faculty of the Hartt School at the University of Hartford, West Hartford Ct, Adelphi university in Garden City, Ny and the Greenwich house music school in Ny, Ny, not to mention Vice president of the Long Island Chapter of the American Harp society. How do you manage to find time for yourself?
Time management is a constant struggle for me. I can’t even lie about that. I do become overwhelmed at times, but I thankfully have family and friends that help me if ever I begin to slip.
From having such a versatile career path, what struggles do you endure from being a musician to a teacher the next?
Scheduling can become a struggle when big performances out of town come up, and conflict with teaching. I am on top of making up missed lessons on a different day, and also Skyping lessons. My students do understand the importance of my performing in addition to my teaching so they are very supportive. Having their support & encouragement is very important to me.
Any advice you can give to budding artist trying to have their music heard?
Actually, social networking is really incredible! Create your networks via Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or whatever you prefer, and USE THEM.
What do you hope your work with playing the harp can do for views on the “outdated” instrument?
You may have seen that my twitter bio says: Making harp a more relevant force in today’s music. That’s my goal. I would hope that people don’t think the harp is still just good for Baroque music, and to use your word ‘outdated’ music. It is a full functioning instrument so I am happy that many non-classical and celtic artists are incorporating harp into their music. Hopefully more people will start using harp for recordings and live performances :)
What is one thing you hope fans can take from your music?
Hopefully, one can sense an honesty in my playing. Far from perfect, my playing is flawed and very human so I hope people feel a sense of comfort. Nothing that makes them think too hard, but something that they can just listen to, enjoy and relate.
What can you begin to define as your L3GACI?
A new culture. A hybrid of elements classic, urban and modern. Look at what Dorothy Ashby did with her music; and look at how rappers are still sampling it today! Look at what Alice Coltrane did. They each took the harp and did something new, something different and something unique to them. That’s key. They each created a culture.
Lastly how does your art work, Create and Evolve Society?
Blending all of those elements that make me, myself and being able to communicate that in a new way musically is just a step. Forward motion.