Sophomore Miriam Kessler is particularly unique when compared to other CMPI fellows — she is CMPI’s only harpist! Ironically, she chose the harp at age 9 because she thought it would be more portable than the piano, which she also plays. While it is slightly easier to move than a piano, it still requires specialized transportation — between the seats of a minivan.
Miriam studies harp with Dr. Erin Freund, a harp professor at Augustana College. She credits Dr. Freund with teaching her a very important lesson: to foster an interest in the music you are learning and performing. As Miriam states, “the audience can tell if you don’t like [a] piece.” Miriam is clearly having success, since she recently won first place in the Junior Division of the Greater Chicago Chapter of the American Harp Society’s scholarship competition.
One of Miriam’s favorite musical moments was when she had the opportunity to perform with a community ensemble, the Kankakee Valley Symphony Orchestra, for Gustav Holst’s The Planets. Not only is it one of her favorite pieces, but she also enjoyed the experience of performing orchestral repertoire. She also is a member of the Midwest Young Artist’s Symphony Orchestra, and plays piano in a piano trio. “I enjoy chamber music and am grateful for the opportunity to rehearse in the midst of the pandemic,” says Miriam.
Regardless of being the only harp player in CMPI, Miriam was fortunate enough to participate in a CMPI-sponsored masterclass with Ann Hobson Pilot, former principal harpist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. playing the Harp Concerto by Alberto Ginastera. “It is one of the most well-known harp concertos, so it [is] useful to have feedback on a piece that is frequently used.” Miriam has also benefited from CMPI’s performance opportunities and juries, which have helped her to “set goals and grow in solo performance.”
Her biggest tip for other students is to put practicing first. As she says, “Practicing doesn’t always have concrete deadlines associated with it, so it is easy to procrastinate, unlike with school assignments. I am homeschooled, so I have more freedom with my time. I usually try to practice harp in the mornings and then spend the rest of the day on homework and composition.”
Miriam plans on majoring in harp performance in college, while also pursuing composition. Thus far, she has composed works for solo instruments, small ensembles, and is working on an orchestral work. In her spare time, she enjoys knitting, reading, cooking, working out, and picking up new instruments.