This Harpist's Way

Welcome to my first blog post ever on my web site. Disclaimer: I am 100% guilty of artistic theft! I have stolen my title idea from a wonderful book called The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. It is a guidebook, or a creative roadmap if you will. And at this point in my life, drowning in a formative forest, I need guides, road maps- bring them all on!

I've come to a creative crossroads. Not knowing which path to take, perhaps it will help to put some groundwork down to get my footing so my future steps will be taken in a more focused direction.

So here are the artistic paths that lie before me. Which one to choose? Or should I meander?

1. Playing harp for monetary gain. I've been slugging down this path for years, but the landscape has changed dramatically. My restaurant gigs have vanished due to the economic downturn. Finding wedding work has gotten way more competitive, and on-line advertising costs have made it a much more expensive proposition. There are lots of other opportunities to play, but they don't always pay. I must stop apologizing for asking for what I need to keep doing what I do. Let's be honest- I *do* need to make money as a harpist just to afford maintaining these instruments! Harp strings, harp repairs, amplification equipment, transportation- all these costs add up to a significant sum. I can't afford to just keep giving this music all away. I need to find a way to get someone to pay this piper without totally killing my soul or turning off my audience. I'm in the process of trying to turn this around for myself. I'm updating my website. I'm adding press kits, and I want to make videos and recordings to show people the possibilities of what I can do as an artist. I want to show my performances for niche audiences- for the musical styles that I play (pop, jazz, folk, classical, country); for the venues I can play (Historical harp music for museums, concerts for libraries/book stores, special music for restaurants, clubs, nursing homes, churches, and perhaps even busking on the street!). I want to also engage in more collaborative work with other artists in order to explore more creative possibilities. Time to stop hiding in my musical rut and to step out into the sun so that I may show people my capabilities as an artist. Will this take a lot of work? Yes. Does it scare me? Absolutely! Will it work? Who knows?

2. Playing whatever I want with no regard for monetary gain. In my dream world, yes, this is what I would do. I tend to take on projects that require me to work on difficult music. Last year, I played "Ceremony of Carols" by Benjamin Britten for the Philadelphia Girls' Choir and it took me six months of dedicated practice to get that piece into my fingers and feet. It is the most difficult thing I've ever done as a harpist. I did some other challenging pieces last year as well. When I complete a performance, I relish the window of time I have before my next engagement when I can play whatever music I feel like playing. That often seems like too small a window to me. How I wish I could do that all the time! But there are problems with this. Would I be able to keep the harps operational? If I took this leap of faith would I be able to eventually find a way to convert it into something that could generate income?

3. Doing other creative work that is completely different from the harp. Now I'm really veering off into uncharted territory. I have an idea for writing a musical. It's kind of out there, but I think it has great potential. I've discussed this idea with others, and they were enthusiastic about it too. I would even have special resources available to help me write this play that others might not have available to them. There are problems though. How do I find the time to make it happen? Am I being too presumptuous to think I can even take something like this on in the first place? If it's more than I can handle, who do I ask for help? How do I find that person?

As you can see, I have lots of questions and choices to make. I'm not sure what to do, but putting them all down here has already eased my anxiety a bit. For now, I'll move forward in whatever ways I can, even if they're only small steps taken each day. Perhaps a clear path, or a guide to direct me, will present itself. But for now, I'll keep on trucking and keep on harping!

Stay tuned! (Which for a harpist is only wishful thinking, of course...)

Laura Dishong

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