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A Truly Dynamic Duo

Interview with Leah Zielke (harp student) and Sylvia McLain (harp faculty)



Leah has studied harp with CMSP’s harp instructor, Sylvia McLain, for 11 years. She began piano lessons at the age of 5, but at the age of 7 she really wanted to play the harp.  It was a challenge for her parents to find an affordable harp for a 7-year-old to play.  Fortunately, her grandmother, who lived in Florida, had a neighbor who had a small harp and was willing to sell it to Leah’s parents.


She had a harp- now she needed a teacher. Her parents reached out to CMSP who has a wonderful harp teacher, Sylvia McLain.  When they first started working together Leah was very shy.  Sylvia remarked that though Leah was the youngest student she ever had, she was very attentive and a good listener. With her extremely supportive parents, Leah made steady progress on the harp. At age 11 her parents got Leah a full sized pedal harp and she blossomed.


Now a home-schooled high school senior, she has played with the Maranatha Youth Orchestra and the Patrick Henry Harp Ensemble for several years.  When we asked Leah what is the most challenging part of playing the harp, we thought she we tell us that since the harp is a bulky instrument, it is difficult to transport it.   Instead, Leah said that the most demanding aspect of playing the harp is mastering hand positions. Sylvia emphasizes the importance of this, and they work on it together.  One of Leah’s younger sisters, Joya, is also interested in the harp and Leah has started teaching her.


Leah’s favorite composer is Carlos Salzedo (1885-1961), renowned in the harp world for his compositions presenting the harp as a virtuoso instrument. Salzedo influenced many composers with his new ideas for the harp’s sound. Leah also enjoys playing pieces by Frederic Chopin (1810-1849), which were transcribed for the harp.


Practice is a critical element to success in almost anything, but especially when learning an instrument. Leah tries to practice for an hour every day, which can sometimes be challenging given her busy schedule.  She hopes to attend Lancaster Bible College next year and plans to study psychology.


CMSP has several student recitals each year and it is always a treat when Leah performs. Good luck in college Leah!! Thanks, Sylvia, for being a wonderful teacher!!

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