Are you ready for today's "5 Questions with..."? Today's interview is with Sylvia Woods, who is a veteran of the lever harp & publishing. Keep reading after the break for some interesting info! I particularly enjoyed reading about how the harp world & publishing has changed.
How did you get started playing the harp?
As I was growing up I played piano, flute, and guitar. We had season tickets to the Glendale Symphony, and my sister and I were fascinated with the harp whenever it was part of the program. My mother always said that one of us should learn to play the harp . . . but she never was able to make this a reality.
At the beginning of my second semester at the University of Redlands I walked into the harp room and asked the teacher, Marjorie Call, if I could start pedal harp lessons. We kept this a secret from my mother. When she came out at the end of the semester to hear a choir concert, we made her close her eyes and took her into the harp room. I played something for her, and she was so excited! Who would have guessed that trying to surprise my mom would lead to my life-long career!
You first published Teach Yourself to Play the Folk Harp in 1978. How has publishing changed since then?
I typeset my Teach Yourself book (and several other books after that) by using dry transferrable rub-off notes. I laboriously rubbed-off every single note and every single fingering one at a time! Several years later, I found a man with a music typewriter who typeset my next few books. Eventually, computers came along, and I started typesetting my books on music software. This is SO much easier and faster than rubbing off every note one at a time!!!
The other big change is that all of my music is now available as PDF downloads as well as printed books or sheets. My customers love PDFs for several reasons:
#1. There are no shipping charges. This is particularly important for international customers.
#2. They can get the music immediately.
#3. They can easily transfer their music to their iPad for gigs.
What are some of the major changes you've seen since you first started your business?
The biggest change I’ve seen has been the acceptance of lever harps into the pedal harp world.
In the 1980s I started exhibiting at the AHS Conferences with a booth selling my books and lever harps. For many years I was pretty much ignored. The prevailing attitude was that folk harps were toys, and not “real” instruments. I got lots of phone calls from lever harp customers throughout the country saying that the only teacher they could find was a pedal harp teacher who kept saying “when you get a REAL harp we can play REAL music.”
Every year I saw the attitudes changing, with lever harps becoming an important part of the larger harp world.
Here are some interesting stats of how far we’ve come. I have almost 500 teachers listed on my website.
88 say they only teach lever harps
9 say they only teach pedal harps
395 say they teach BOTH lever and pedal harps.
What do you like most about living in and working from Hawaii?
Here are some of the reasons why I love living on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.
* The scenery is breathtaking. I love the rain . . . and the fact that it often rains at night. The rain keeps everything green, and gives us awesome rainbows.
* I love the fact that I keep my windows and sliding doors open 24/7 about 355 days out of the year.
* I love that I never have to wear “real shoes” . . . just sandals or flip-flops (which we call “slippers.”)
* I love the laid-back lifestyle, and the spirit of aloha.
* I love that I no longer have a “real” store that I need to open at a particular time. And, as much as I LOVED my employees when I had my store . . . life is much easier without having to worry about anyone.
I’m as busy as I ever was, but my schedule is much more flexible. I usually take care of my internet orders in the morning, and take them to the post office, which is only a few minutes away from my condo. I teach about one to three Skype or FaceTime lessons a day to students all over the world. Other than that, my schedule is open, giving me time for a variety of creative endeavors.
And there it is! What's something you learned from the interview?
Who else would you like to see "5 Questions with..."?
P.S. Did you know that Sylvia Woods Harp Center carries Making Harp Lessons Exciting For Young Children?
Barbara Fischer runs Fischarper, LLC and loves her job as a harpist and private music educator. She enjoys blogging about various aspects of the music field on fischarper.com/blog. For more music resources, check out the Fischarper store. You can connect with Barbara all over the interwebs on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube. And you can sign up to receive Fischarper updates by joining the email list.
Welcome to the blog! I'm Barbara, and I work as a freelance harpist and private music educator. You can read my bio here. On the blog, you can find posts about various aspects of this career path, especially teaching and crafty stuff. Thank you for stopping by! I'd love to hear from you in the comments or on social media. And don't forget to subscribe to the email list for updates!
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