Pulling Strings

Chronicle Staff

After seeing Megan Rich ’08 play at a recent harp recital, a 7-year-old girl’s father asked Rich to tell his daughter why she needed to practice her harp more often. Little did he know that eight years ago, when Rich started playing the harp, she too practiced very infrequently and found playing the harp to be more of a chore than a fun hobby.

When trying to fathom what she could possibly tell this young girl, reminiscent of herself, Rich realized that practicing is a “maturity thing” Rich said. “The more you practice, the more fun [the harp] will be and the more you can do with it.”

Rich and her two sisters have always been required to play instruments by their parents. Rich believes that this is what caused her to rebel by never practicing, except when her harp teacher, Mindy Johnson, came to her house to give her lessons.

After seeing how diligently her sister played the piano and after realizing that if she “was going to have to play the harp, she might as well do it well,” Rich finally began practicing and now practices at least one hour each day.

Soon after she grew to truly enjoy playing, good luck came her way. When Rich was looking for a new harp, she found the perfect one: Style 26. Although it was beautiful, it was the most expensive harp on the market, and her parents weren’t willing to pay for it.
A week before Rich headed to Seattle to visit a friend, she was paging through “Harp Column” (a harp magazine she subscribes to) and stumbled upon an ad for a Style 26 harp in the Classifieds.

Stunned by the low price, Rich soon found out that the seller inherited the harp and was selling the harp for the mere cost of refurbishing.

“She just wanted to give the harp to someone who would appreciate it,” Rich said. Five years later, she still uses the same harp.

Rich and her harp have traveled all over: to weddings, senior homes, family parties, recitals and even the most recent Senior Mother-Daughter Luncheon.

After her daughter was featured in Rich’s one act, “Not a stone tell where I lie”, Elizabeth Goodman (Betsy ’06 and Molly ’09) approached Rich about playing at the luncheon.

Rich enjoyed the relaxed environment of the event, and it was the first time she had brought her unique pastime to the Harvard-Westlake community since she participated in the Concert Strings Orchestra when she was in seventh grade.

“Although the experience was overall satisfying, it took up my elective space so that I was unable to take art and photography,” Rich said.

Rich, who was inspired to take up the harp after seeing a harpist at the Bel Air Hotel with her parents, is constantly faced with the obscurity of her instrument.

When she was in New York for a month this summer, Rich missed her harp so much that, though she was sad to leave her new friends and summer program, on the plane ride back home Rich’s sadness was overshadowed with the excitement she felt to come home to her harp.

“It’s not like a piano,” Rich said. “Anywhere you go you can find a piano…when I tell people that I play the harp, they don’t believe me.”

This past June, Rich, who normally has two recitals a year, had her first solo recital. Surrounded by family and friends, she played for two hours at her house and performed a six-page untitled piece she wrote.

Rich has written six original pieces over the course of two years and has been arranging pieces for three years.

“The recital made me realize how far my practicing had taken me,” Rich said. “It’s not like [I’m] learning an instrument anymore, [I’m] playing it.”