Belle Sherman Music Classes Enriched with Harps

August 10, 2016

Facebook photo for harp 2Last school year, members of the Belle Sherman Mariachi Ensemble received a brand new addition to their band. A Teacher Grant from the Ithaca Public Education Initiative (IPEI) provided the means for their teacher Cindy Daly to purchase harps, contributing to multicultural musical enrichment for Belle Sherman Elementary School students.


Mariachi, Mexican folk music, often features harps as a standard instrument. The opportunity to learn to play the harp is now offered to fourth and fifth-graders at Belle Sherman allowing them to explore the genre in its entirety. The grant provided funding for a community partner, Lisa Craig Fenwick, as well as purchasing harp cases, an extra set of strings, small accessories, and the instrument.


Music teacher and band director Daly expressed her enthusiasm for this project in her application for the grant: “I am excited about turning a one-time experience of ‘telling about the harp’ into putting actual harps into students’ hands and allowing them to truly experience playing them.”


Fenwick, a professional harpist, frequented Belle Sherman to teach the students basic harp techniques. During her visits, the students were taught basic harp techniques and given take home materials that outlined the history of the harp. If students demonstrated a great interest in harp technique, Fenwick would conduct a follow-up lesson with those students and weekly instruction during the school day.


Daly also explained that there could be long-reaching benefits to this project. “We had a harp soloist perform with the Boynton Middle School Orchestra in 2010, and I heard about a harpist possibly performing with the Ithaca High School Orchestra,” she said. “Perhaps from a simple beginning introduction to harp in the Mariachi ensemble, our next harp soloist may be inspired to start their study.”


In addition to the project’s long-term goals, the students were able to demonstrate what they learned about the harp during school concerts in March and May.

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