Youth Spotlight: Playing The Harp
Distance Learning Takes On a Whole New Meaning
By ANGELA WAMPLER | A! MAGAZINE | February 22, 2010Anna Christine Morrell is a 15-year-old freshman at Tri-Cities Christian School, Blountville, Tenn. An honor student, she is a member of the Senior High Choir and the cheerleading squad. She is also a member of the choir, the handbell choir, and a percussion ensemble at Cold Spring Presbyterian Church, Bristol, Tenn.
She and her parents, Joe and Jane Morrell, moved from Nashville to the Tri-Cities area in July 2008.
What makes her a stand-out is her passion for playing the harp.
At the tender age of four, Anna Christine became interested in harp study after seeing Carol McClure play a small harp at First Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn. A nationally recognized harp player and instructor, McClure is artistic director for the largest harp school in the nation, and instructs The Angel's Harp method for children ages 4-6 whose hands are too small to study piano. McClure herself began harp study at age six, won two major harp competitions at age 14, and began her international concert career at age 16, performing in Europe.
Anna Christine's first harp was petite – less than three feet tall — allowing her to sit on the floor and place the instrument between her crossed legs. She studied for five years with McClure, who often accompanied The Angel's Harp ensemble in recitals on her own harp.
Around age nine, Anna Christine began to study harp with Licia Jaskunas, the principal harpist with The Nashville Symphony. After moving to Bristol, Anna Christine began taking lessons in Statesville, N.C. – a six-hour drive roundtrip. Now she studies with Cindy Hicks, who is principal harpist with Knoxville's Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra and sometimes plays with Symphony of the Mountains, based in Kingsport. Hicks began playing the Irish harp at age 8.
Anna Christine's mother says, "When we lived in Nashville, we were blessed to have instructors practically at our fingertips. Driving to Statesville and now to Knoxville for weekly lessons is a big commitment." She picks up Anna Christine from school and drives four hours roundtrip, returning home at bedtime for the next school day.
Mom adds, "It's important developmentally for Anna Christine to stay as long as possible with the same teacher. It's also important that the instructor is a "good match' for her. You have to look for technique and reputation and a good personality match for kids. We think Cindy Hicks will take Anna Christine through her high school years. After that, it's up to Anna Christine."
Another big commitment: the cost of a harp. Anna Christine's mom says, "When you invest in a big harp, it's a big decision, and we've decided to do what it takes to keep this going. There's a big price range – you can pay anything you want to pay."
Until recently, Anna Christine played a vintage harp valued at more than $10,000. Now she's playing a 95-year-old harp valued at $35,000.
At age 15 Anna Christine doesn't know if she will pursue a music career. She's a cheerleader and has other interests. Her mom says, "That's good news. We want her to be well-rounded. We don't want her to sit at a harp all her life. But [getting paid to perform] sure beats baby-sitting."
A recent customer describes Anna Christine as "very professional." She played for her first wedding at age eight and has played for numerous events at churches (both weddings and funerals), the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, and the Renaissance Center in Dickson, Tenn. Her repertoire includes classical, Christian and modern pieces of music, and she enjoys listening to various styles of Christian music.
She also loves to sing. At age six, she auditioned for and sang the role of "Tooty" in the Broadway musical Meet Me In St. Louis at her church in Nashville. At home she sings while her father plays saxophone. Dad was a professional musician in Nashville and at Disney World, and a minister of music at his church for 30 years. He is now a motivational behavior/career consultant. Her mother is a pediatric nurse.
Anna Christine Morrell, 15, recently won second place in the regional Tennessee Association of Christian Schools music competition. She will compete at the state level in March 2010.
Anna Christine performing at age 4 on a petite harp.