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Local residents learn about playing the silver strings at harp workshop

By Staff | Sep 28, 2018

John Burns learns how to position his hands from Tula Ruggiero with hopes of coaxing beautiful music from the harp. Photo by Toni Milbourne.

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Shepherd University’s Community Music Program featured the artistry of Tula Ruggiero in a harp workshop at the Frank Arts Center Saturday.

During the workshop, Ruggiero shared a brief history of the harp and information about three harps she had on display.

Attendees were able to see and hear a pedal harp, a lap harp and a full-size harp, each of which they then had a chance to play. Ruggiero taught those at the workshop the basic hand positions for playing, demonstrating how to play various notes on each of the instruments.

The workshop was part of an ongoing program by the university to help community members interested in music find qualified instructors at reasonable prices.

“We offer the workshops to bring more visibility to the Community Music Program,” said Sherry Sykes, coordinator of the program.

Sykes said many opportunities provided within the program include private music lessons, an opportunity to play within a group, early childhood experience with lessons or continued development for musicians at any level.

The harp workshop allowed Ruggiero to showcase her knowledge of the instrument, as well as offer some initial exposure to the harp. She holds a doctorate in harp performance from Florida State University and a master’s degree in harp pedagogy from Shenandoah Conservatory. She provides instruction on both the harp and the piano through the Community Music Program and through the Berkeley Springs School of Music.

According to Ruggiero, she started playing the harp as a young adult, and has played the piano as long as she can remember.

“My mother started teaching me and then she hired a professional instructor when I was four,” Ruggiero said.

As for adding the harp to her repertoire, Ruggiero said, “I took to it and it took over.”

Helen Burns, who attended the workshop, along with her husband, tried her hand at the various instruments available.

“Well, that’s really fun,” Helen said. “But I don’t know if I’d do the practicing to get started.”

The harp is only one of several instruments individuals can learn to play through the Community Music Program. In addition, individuals interested in voice can find opportunities to study and join with others as well.

“We offer youth chorus for those in grades three to eight. We also offer a variety of early childhood lessons, adult piano, really any instrument. Students can start at whatever level,” Sykes said, mentioning piano and voice are the two most popular classes within the program.

The program also allows Shepherd music majors an opportunity to teach, as qualified university students are allowed to teach beginners.

“Students here at Shepherd in the music program have been playing since they were kids,” Sykes explained.

To learn more about the Community Music Program, visit www.shepherd.edu/music/community-programs or call Sykes at 304-876-5248.