Meet the Speakers: Alisa Coffey and Anna Cooney, Arkansas Harp Society

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Art of Motion and Music, Events, Meet the Speaker

Tags: , ,

Anna Cooney. Photo by Hope Helms.

Thursday, May 10, 2018
Art of Motion and Music: Arkansas Harp Society
5:30 p.m. Wine Reception | 6 p.m. Lecture
The Arkansas Harp Society joins us for Art of Motion and Music, to celebrate the harp and its music. Learn about the history and mission of this newly-formed organization and hear the celestial sounds of local Arkansan harpists – solo and en masse. We caught up with Arkansas Harp Society President Anna Cooney and Vice President Alisa Coffey to learn a little more about the harp and the Arkansas Chapter of the American Harp Society before the event.

What is your role with the Arkansas Harp Society?

Alisa Coffey. Photo by Kelly Hicks.

Alisa: When I moved to Arkansas six years ago I realized there was not an American Harp Society chapter within the state, and I knew that was something I wanted to change. As the harp community has grown within Little Rock and our state, I’ve been really pleased to find like-minded harpists with the same goals. We created our governing committee last summer and I took on the role of Vice President for the organization.

Anna: I am the current President of the Arkansas Chapter of the American Harp Society, elected in our first formative meeting last summer. Alisa Coffey, our Vice-President and principal harpist with the Arkansas Symphony, really is the moving force in forming the organization. All of the governing committee members have active roles, and we look forward to continue working together to support the harp community in Arkansas.

Can you tell us about the mission of the Arkansas Harp Society?

Alisa: The mission of the American Harp Society is “to celebrate our legacy, inspire excellence, and empower the next generation of harpists.” As the Arkansas chapter of this organization we want to see those same things – happening here within our own state.

How did you first become interested in the harp?

Alisa: I first saw and heard the harp at the age of four in the home of some family friends.  The complexity and beauty of the instrument stuck with me and several years later I decided that I wanted to learn to play.

What do you wish more people knew about the harp?

Alisa: I’d love to see more people simply be exposed to the unique presence and sound of our instrument.  The harp isn’t just an archaic, stuffy or elite instrument.  It’s accessible for everyone.  And while it can be beautifully mellow and delicate, the harp is also capable of expressing all different kinds of musical ideas.

Anna: I first remember seeing a harp during a television program in my early childhood. I informed a nearby family member “I want to play THAT!!” but I didn’t have the chance until high school. My mom received a 34-string lever harp for Christmas one year, and I became intrigued. The harp came with a “Teach Yourself to Play” book and VHS tape, and since I had more than a decade of private piano and violin lessons at that point, I thought I could surely figure out the harp! Naturally, one of my first “teach yourself” projects was to transcribe my favorite Chopin piano etudes for the lever harp – a project which, while lots of fun, definitely taught me the limits of “teach yourself.” After that, I eagerly pursued instruction with professionals, later bought a pedal harp, and eventually earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in harp performance.

What advice would you give to aspiring young harpists?

Alisa: Listen – find your favorite pieces for the instrument.  Find the harpists and sounds that you like the best and listen to those a lot. Learn – seek out opportunities to learn from other harpists both here in Arkansas and elsewhere.  We can all learn something from one another’s experiences, ideas, and knowledge. Never stop looking for ways to sound better, more beautiful. And of course, practice!

Tickets are still available for the Art of Motion and Music event with the Arkansas Harp Society – purchase your tickets here.

Share this Post