Final Recital for MA in Jazz Performance

I can't believe it - I have almost finished my Master's Degree in Jazz Performance! My last official assignment is my final recital performance, which is a week today! It is a part of the RWCMD's Amser Jazz Time Weekend Festival. There's going to be so much music going on, so if you are in Cardiff I would highly recommend visiting this website for more information. Darius Brubeck, John Taylor, and Get The Blessing will also be performing that weekend - be sure not to miss them! 

My recital is going to be the 17th of May at 3 pm (UK Time) in the Dora Stoutzker Hall at RWCMD - but if you are not in Cardiff, I am going live streaming, again! Click here for more information. Concert Window makes it so easy :) A special note - the concert is completely free to watch online and in public, but if you tip $30, I'll give you a one hour harp lesson (saves you $15!) If we are not in the same location, I will happily teach you via Skype! 

I'm very excited to be playing with two great musicians, and will be sharing my interpretation of celtic and jazz music for the first time in public. Hope to see you all there or online!


Edinburgh Harp Festival 2015

I had such a great week at the Edinburgh Harp Festival! I learned a lot of music, was inspired to compose, and met some great people. It's always interesting when a group of harpists get together. I was also able to help out at the foundation booth - it's easy to sell CD's when you love the music!

I'm excited to share with you all what I learned - I'll be hosting a Concert Window House concert sometime this summer to do so! More information on that soon. 

Hope you all have had a lovely April! 

The Long Winter ...

is nearly over! We haven't had it as bad in the U.K. as you all in America have, though. It's been fairly mild. The past few months I've been spending in my practice room (to avoid the rain as much as possible) and am excited to show what I've been working on! This Friday I'll be performing at RWCMD's Jazz Time starting at 5:30 pm! The set is going to be all jazz tunes that I've been learning by ear, and I'll even be playing a little bit of percussion on the harp! If you're in the area, I'd love for you to stop by and check it out.

Also, my E.P. is finally beginning to turning into a reality. We'll be recording late this month, and I can't wait! I've had a great time designing the liner notes and working on the arrangements :) More information on that as the date comes closer. 

Christmas Parties!

Had a great time playing for a few Christmas parties in my home town of Raleigh, NC this December! Here's a great testimonial from one of the parties:

"Michelle made our family reunion/Christmas party a wonderful and memorable event. She played absolutely amazing, her talent was flawless and professionalism top notch! She was also easy to work with and very dependable, she arrived early and was set up and ready to go. Michelle played a variety of Christmas and classical songs that brought a smile to all. Everyone at the event complimented on what a fabulous show she put on. I would highly recommend Michelle for your event, rest assured she will meet and exceed all of your expectations." 

 It was a great time and I had a blast learning some more Christmas music for them :) 



Two Upcoming Concerts

Things are starting to pick up here in the UK! I'm really looking forward to this weekend, as I'll be playing a courtyard concert in my aunt's town - Sidmouth, Devon! The date is Saturday August 2nd, 5-6 PM, if anyone reading this is in that area. It will be a solo concert with my Thormahlen celtic harp. It's always an adventure traveling with my harp :) 

Also, for anyone with an internet connection, I'm very excited to share that I'll be live streaming a concert straight from my lovely new Cardiff home on August 20th at 4 pm (EST - so 21:00 for the UK, 22:00 for mainland Europe). The concert will be through Click here for the event page! I'll be playing a selection of my celtic repertoire (arrangements with a jazz approach). The best part for me? No loading and unloading a big instrument. Best part for you? It's completely free (unless you decide to 'tip')!

Italy and Idols - Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter Performance Review

I have just come back from a wonderful two weeks in Italy, and I couldn't have asked for a better holiday! The first week was spent at the Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia. It was amazing, and I was able to see Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter live! It was so great to see people I have been idolizing for years play in real life. For our masters program, we have to write some reviews of live performances so here's what I have so far :)

July 17th, 2014 - Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter

    A surprising (and very welcome) change from the party atmosphere of the Umbria Jazz Festival, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter delivered an inspiring and thought provoking performance. There were no crowd pleasers, no gimmicks, and very thankfully, no audience participation. It was just pure music, a conversation between the two musical legends. It was almost like watching them discuss the meaning of life through their instruments, in the back of a low lit bar, with their favorite beverage. 

    The excitement in the crowd was palpable as the two elderly musicians slowly walked on stage. Their first few minutes felt like a classical piece of music, as there was no swing feel of any sort. That morphed into just a hint of a groove (played on a mixture of down beats and off beats) leaving the audience with the feeling of floating in outer space. Eventually, Hancock moved over to his electric piano and started forming short musical motifs with the new technology. They explored complex rhythms that challenged the ears of many listeners, but the underlying pulse was visible at every moment in Hancock's playing. Unpredictable interjections of extreme virtuosity helped make it an unforgettable performance.

    Their friendship and ability to communicate really came through on stage, though the wind blowing Hancock's music off the piano momentarily diminished the atmosphere. There was no discussion of the pieces played until the very end, which gave the audience the gift of interpretation and creative listening. They informed us at the end how the concert was a journey, how they were trying to dig deeper into the music. Hancock, an obviously profound thinker, left us with this thought, "there is a  whole universe inside of you, keep exploring."

Cardiff - What to Look for In A Wedding Harpist

As spring continues, more and more weddings are being planned. This is both a stressful and happy time for engaged couples, so I'm here to help a bit. I've compiled a brief list of what to look for in a wedding harpist. 

1) Professionalism.

Probably the biggest differing factor between harpists. A wedding harpists' professionalism can be judged by their website and all of the following tips.

2) Responsiveness.

In this day and age with smartphones and 24/7 access to email/facebook/twitter etc .. there is really no excuse for unresponsiveness. Be sure that your wedding harpist responds within 24 hours of your first contact. Of course, things happen, but generally the quicker a vendor responds, the more dedicated they are to their business and your wedding day! 

3) Talent.

When speaking with your wedding harpist, ask about her (or his!) repertoire lists, qualifications, and achievements. Check and see if they have recorded audio samples online, YouTube videos, or are willing to email them to you. Ideally, you would schedule a consultation with the harpist to listen to them play a variety of musical selections.

4) Experience and Testimonials.

Hopefully the consultation will be enough to help you decide, but if you are stuck between two or three or more harpists to choose from (Wales has a plethora of harpists!) check out their testimonials. See what other people have to say about their musical abilities and services, and see how many have positive feedback. Try to not rely just on their professional site, but look into online wedding services like GigMasters and WeddingWire - where the harpist cannot edit the feedback given to them.

I hope these tips help all you happy couples in Cardiff! 

First Day of Spring

... but we're all snowed under with work here at Royal Welsh! And although we've been having some lovely weather lately, certainly doesn't look like spring today. Good thing it's also International Day of Happiness. What makes you happy? I'm celebrating today by practicing and arranging Duke Ellington's 'Fleurette Africaine' for trumpet, cello, harp, and rhythm section! 

Unfortunately my March 7th performance at school was cancelled due to a stomach virus, however I will now be playing on the 28th (a week tomorrow) instead! Hope to see you there :) 


I hope all the happy couples are enjoying planning weddings or being married! So many beautiful wedding venues in Cardiff. 

Modern Harpistry

I am really getting into one of my presentations for school that I have named Modern Harpistry. I will be focusing on two major jazz harpists from the past, Alice Coltrane and Dorothy Ashby and comparing/contrasting their approach to the harp. Their careers are very interesting and they both grew up in Detroit, Michigan at around the same time, however they are both completely different stylistically. Their different experimentations with the harp have given me a whole new mindset for my instrument! Part of the presentation will be exploring the different sounds the harp can produce. My first thoughts have been threading materials through the strings like felt or paper to achieve a more static sound. Maybe attaching bells to strings? Hmmm... I am also hoping to experiment with things such as loop and distortion pedals, though would like to focus on the natural sounds of the instrument first. Time to get those creative juices flowing :) 

Update - School and Facebook

I finally took the plunge and have created my own professional Facebook page! Created the page, got some 'likes', and even posted a few things... Now what??

In other news, my master's program is going very well. I am really enjoying my time here (maybe a bit too much?!) Feels a bit like an 'extended musical vacation.' I even have my very own pedal harp in my room now! Our course has a lot of deadlines in March, so it's definitely picking up steam work-wise. That and I've been introduced to rugby - a surprisingly fun sport to watch, even if you don't know anything about it. 

Also, I have created the Jazz Harp Quartet (sometimes Quintet) and we are performing at the Royal Welsh College of Music on the 7th of March (5:30 pm) !! I'm very excited to show my modern approach to the harp and all these wonderful new things I've been learning. 



My professional new year's resolution - write more blog entries! And to make them more interactive. You'll be seeing more photos, videos, polls, discussions ... I am now the proud owner of an iPhone (my mom's old 3g iPhone!) which means I can update this blog from anywhere in the world. Which is good because this year I'm going to be doing a LOT of traveling! I'm hoping to visit Brussels, Antwerp, Paris, Heidelberg (Germany), Amsterdam, explore the rest of Wales, and pop up to Scotland at some point! My uncle is having a 50th wedding anniversary celebration in October in the outer hebrides. I can't wait to go there again, so much beauty in that part of the world!

The first weekend in January, I was asked to give a harp workshop on improvisation. It was a really neat day. There were 4 harpists there; 3 on pedal harp, one on lever harp. I introduced them to the basic blues chords/structure and the idea behind improvising. They even learned a blues tune! 

But now, I am back in Wales with classes starting tomorrow! I am excited to get back into the swing of school and my life here. 

Christmas Eve

I hope you all have had a very happy Holiday season! What a wonderful time of the year, indeed! I spent Christmas eve at a Methodist church in Raleigh, N.C.  I accompanied their choir on a couple of pieces, one of them Angel's Carol by John Rutter, then played a couple of duets with the organist and a few solo harp pieces. My family was able to come and watch, too! I can't think of a better way to celebrate Christmas Eve. 

Branford Marsalis

The past few days I have been in my home town in North Carolina to celebrate the holidays with my family. It has been a wonderful time so far! Especially since last night I had the amazing opportunity to meet Branford Marsalis! There is a picture of us on my jazz page :) Luckily, I ran into someone I met at Berklee who is studying with him and he introduced us. Given his fame, he was surprisingly approachable, and really very nice! He played all old New Orleans style jazz at this little jazz club in Raleigh called C Grace - my favorite place to go when I am at home. It has such an intimate and cozy atmosphere. The performance was amazing. Every single musician that played with Marsalis was really incredible. There are few motivators in this world as big and strong as seeing live music (the better the performance, the stronger the motivation!) I hope to see him again, and other jazz greats while I still can! 

A Whirlwind summer ...

My time abroad was completely amazing, but I am so sorry to those I could not get in contact with in regards to gigs. I met so many wonderful people, was able to provide music for my sister's wedding (pictures soon!), hung out with family I haven't seen in at least 2 years, traipsed around the UK, attended a harp camp with Catrin Finch and Elinor Bennett (!), and topped it off with an audition to the Royal Welsh Academy of Music and Drama Master's jazz program about 5 hours before my flight back to the U.S. My welcome home was discovering that I was accepted and offered a position to start this fall! I can't really contain my excitement about it all!!

In order to celebrate my time in the Asheville/Western North Carolina area, my band-mate of Stringsense, Dan Keller has organized a 'goodbye gig' at the Southern Appalachian Brewery in Hendersonville, NC. We play from 5-7 pm on the 1st of September, then there is another band after us playing from 8-10 pm (due to the holiday weekend!) allowing us time to hang out with everyone. 

I also recently came across this article that was written last year about the last time I played at the brewery with Dan (and his former teacher, Marc Yaxley).

That was such a fun day, and I know this one will be just as fun, probably more! 

Jazz on a Mountaintop

I have a very strong feeling that Western North Carolina is the only place you'll find a jazz trio comprised of harp, guitar, and bass, on the top of a mountain (Stringsense + bass). That's what happened this past Saturday morning, and what a great way to start a month! I know I tend to forget that music is nature, but the views were so incredibly beautiful. There is always something to listen to in nature. Since living here I've found myself analyzing the rhythm of bird calls (though I suppose you can also analyze the honks and sirens in the bigger cities). 

Unfortunately, Stringsense doesn't have a gig for a while, but I'll be attending some jazz jams this summer before heading off to the UK for a little while. I am so incredibly excited to be learning from one of the best harpists in the world, Catrin Finch. She was the Royal Harpist to the Prince of Wales, but she can totally rock out (all aspects of the phrase) on the harp. A really incredible opportunity! Also, I'll be playing at the most special wedding to me - my sister's wedding! It will be a great time :) 

Tragic Day in Boston


I'm sure everyone has heard of the terrible events that occurred today in Boston. I remember Marathon Monday was one of my favorite days of the year! Such a fun filled day, wandering around the city with friends, cheering on/admiring the runners (at that point in my life I couldn't even run a mile without stopping), enjoying a day off of school that none of my other friends from high school had. Just an all around fun day. I hope that despite the events of today, Boston will still continue to have their marathon. I know it will require more and more strict police enforcement. 

    I am thankful that my dear friends and mentors are all OK, as the finish line was pretty close to Berklee College. I will be sending, "positive hippy vibes" to all of those closely affected by the bombings, and that the injured get the help they need quickly.