A Harpist's Story

simple beginnings

Many of my best memories involve music in some way. As a child, I loved to sing - not particular about my location, whether public or private - and create my own version of beautiful music. My mother played the piano and felt like that was the best place to start her daughter's music education, but was soon disillusioned at my growing disinterest in the instrument. My love for music was not thriving on the piano bench! In addition, my fingers were awkward and weak, not at all favorable to my piano teachers who worked with me on fundamental hand positions throughout my experience. After a couple of years, I began to request dropping the piano for another instrument. My mother asked which instrument I preferred. I considered all of the popular choices - flute, violin, cello - and finally came to a conclusion. "Well, I don't want to play an instrument that you spit into, and I don't want to play an instrument that you saw on, either." This narrowed choices considerably. Hmm, no saliva flow and no bow...it sounds like little Rachel is stuck with the piano. At the time, we were not aware of the wide spectrum of instrument possibilities, so from our perspective, there were not a whole lot of other choices. I was not drawn to guitar-type music, and as a petite little "girly girl", could not possibly be seen behind a drum set. I decided to set my heart on something that only a princess would play - something so fantastic and ethereal - and would be an investment not only for the terrestrial existence, but also the celestial. I asked to play the harp.

Looking back to the beginning of my learning experience, there were some times that I reconsidered. Learning the harp was much harder than I anticipated, but when I heard someone else play a harp either at a recital or at my own church, I was invigorated again. I just loved the sound of the harp! 

Both hearing others play and being encouraged by my parents to continue, I could not quit, but stuck with it until I was rewarded with the realization of my own progress and musical growth. The best part of the story is...it was worth it!  

Bio and Education

Rachel Ray has studied harp since the fall of 2000. In high school, she participated in the American Festival of the Arts and the Houston Baptist University Harp Festival. Ray attended Sam Houston State University, earning a Bachelor of Music degree specializing in performance with a concentration in harp in 2013 and a Masters in Music of the same concentration in 2015. During her collegiate studies, Ray was principle harpist for five and a half years in the Sam Houston State University Orchestra with whom she traveled to Puerto Rico on tour. She played numerous performances with the Sam Houston State University Wind Ensemble as well as other chamber groups including a harp ensemble and gave solo recitals. She studied harp with Mollie Marcuson, Sarah Oliver, and Paula Page.

Teaching harp since 2012, Ray served as interim professor of harp at Sam Houston State University in the fall of 2015. In addition to her performing and teaching, Ray has had the experience of volunteering as conductor for a small chamber group and has assisted in an academic lecture of the pedal harp.  

At this time, Ray is a free lance harpist in the Greater Houston Area. She has performed with Nicolay Dance Works in Houston, the Laredo Philharmonic Orchestra, local high school choirs and churches, and has frequently performed as a guest artist with SHSU's orchestra, wind ensemble, and concert band.  Her latest engagements in 2018 include a tour in the greater Dallas/Fort Worth area with the SHSU Wind Ensemble during which Ray performed as a guest artist at ABA (American Bandmasters Association) convention and a production of The Fantasticks in collaboration with the SHSU Theater Department.  

Rachel Ray, Harp of my Heart © 2020 
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