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After pursuing a political science major for two years, Jordana Galvez decided she would rather study something she loves. Now she is the only harp major at Weber State University.
“I love political science, because I understand it a lot, but playing the harp is something I can do the rest of my life, and it’s something that brings me joy, and it also brings joy to others around me,” Galvez said.
Galvez started played the harp at 12 years old. She said most harpists start playing at 4 years old, so she has been catching up ever since. Galvez started playing the harp because her aunt had one and played when she was younger, but quit in her adult years.
“I went to her house once and saw her harp, and she wouldn’t let me play,” Galvez said. “People were inspired to play by something. I was inspired (by) the lack thereof. It’s kind of funny because she was like, ‘No, you can’t touch it.’ After that point, I was like, fine, I’ll get my own.”
Galvez learned to play the harp through private lessons and Suzuki lessons, a classical ear training method. Now, at WSU, Galvez is given lessons from Louise Vickerman, the principal harp of the Utah Symphony/Utah Opera. Vickerman has been playing the harp for 33 years and has been teaching harp at WSU for 10 years.
Vickerman said playing the harp takes dedication, patience and total body coordination. The harp uses both hands as well as both feet. On a typical harp, several pedals are at the base of the instrument.
“The harp is a very physical instrument,” Vickerman said. “It’s really not the delicate/angelic instrument that is so commonly portrayed.”
She said the sound produced is created directly by the harpist’s fingers, and it takes incredible effort and precision to articulate the exact sound the player wants to produce.
“Jordana had great enthusiasm for the harp, an eagerness to learn and a passion for music — essential for anyone who is pursuing a performance degree in any instruments,” Vickerman said. “(She has) good technical basis and a good ear and sold rhythmic sense — great for ensemble playing.”
Michael Palumbo, Galvez’s adviser and orchestral conductor, said all musician majors take the same courses. Music major requirements make up about 60 hours, so it takes the full four years to get the degree just taking music courses. A minor is normally not recommended, but the department provided other courses to help students like Galvez learn the techniques to succeed.
“The careers are kind of limited,” Palumbo said. “Most orchestras have one harpist, and they may have a second one on call, but that isn’t someone that is frequently employed by the orchestras, so competition to get a job like that is very stiff.”
Galvez currently gives private lessons to 10 harpists. One of her students is 5 years old and another is a mother of five. She also gives violin lessons to two students in a group setting.
“In the long run, I would love to be a professor, like (an) adjunct teacher, and teach at a college level,” Galvez said.
Harp majors are supposed to practice three hours a day, but Galvez said her practice time varies. She gets in at least two hours a day. At most, she might get five hours a day in one sitting. She also practices in sets of two hours when she feels like it is needed or if she is close to a competition or concert.
“Harp is the hardest instrument I have ever played in my life,” said Galvez, comparing the harp to other instruments she plays, the violin and the piano. “The harp is the only instrument that I am constantly challenged by on a daily basis. I love playing it, because I love the satisfaction of doing something that is hard.”
Other than teaching private lessons in the harp and violin, Galvez plays her harp for a job. She plays for weddings and other gigs. Her busy season is normally around the times of Easter, Christmas and in spring.
Galvez said that, when she isn’t practicing the harp, playing gigs or teaching, she likes to ride horses. She also said is in love with Harley Davidson.