Someone You Should Know: Teaching the love of the harp

Published: Jun. 18, 2020 at 10:37 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

Anna Vorhes played a lot of different musical instruments growing up in Sheldon, Iowa. Her relationship with the harp, began in college.

"I got to Macalester, the college I went to, and held my hand up, a little freshman, is there a harp teacher? That was at the the music lessons meeting. Well lo and behold the theory professor was on sabbatical. His replacement was married to a harpist. Had she not been there that would've just gone out the window," Anna said.

So Anna learned. And it didn't take long for her to realize there is something special about the harp.

"It's very unusual, it is magical. But once I sat down and played the harp I was in love with it. And I was practicing six to eight hours a day, because I had a music major with a harp concentration," Anna said.

Vorhes would go on to get a masters degree in the harp. And that would lead to a thirty year teaching career in music education at Augustana, all while giving lessons.

"I would offer four free lessons if you wanted to try the harp. And to begin with that's where I started getting students. And it has grown since then. I currently have about 35 students. The last time I counted I had taught close to 200 people," Vorhes said.

Those students have come from all over the region. KT Pagone from Sioux Falls is one of her high school students.

"She gets to know her students and so when I go to a lesson I am inspired to play because there's that connection because she knows who I am," KT said.

"We did a zoom recital last week. Eleven of my students played for each other on zoom and I recorded it and sent it to one of the retirement communities. I encourage my students to play in public because the harp is rare. Almost every time I play for more than fifteen people somebody comes up and says I've never seen a harp live. It is considered one of the most difficult instruments. But the caveat is, you can play the simplest things on the harp and people think you are wonderful," said Anna.

Many of her students have gone on to be great harpists. And while she still plays with the South Dakota Symphony and at many events. Passing down her love of this music to others, was her true calling.

"Teaching kids, teaching adults, teaching anybody who is interested in the world to want to learn something different. Human beings have connected it with angels. Now that's not a biblical image. There are harps in the Bible, there are angels in the Bible. None of the angels have harps. It just is a sound that is both soothing and exciting and interesting to listen too. Through my life, I truly believe that I am suppose to be a harpist and harp teacher," said Anna.

And create some beautiful sounds along the way.