World class harpists to perform at Weinberg Center
Apr. 13, 2005
Jan Holly

Photo courtesy American Youth Harp Ensemble

The American Youth Harp Ensemble will perform at The Weinberg Center for the Arts on Sunday.

Native Fredericktonian Lynnelle Ediger-Kordzaia is a virtuoso harpist who got her start as a musician at Governor Thomas Johnson High School in its magnet music program.

Armed with the specialized training that she received there in the foundations of music, she earned a place at the highly regarded Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio, where she was awarded both Bachelor's and Master's degrees in harp performance and music education.

Upon graduation, Ediger-Kordzaia made her musical way to Richmond, Virginia, where, ten years ago, she developed what has come to be called the American Youth Harp Ensemble. Under her expert stewardship, the Harp Ensemble has evolved into a world-class performing group.

At 3 p.m. Sunday she comes home to Frederick, bringing with her that seventeen-member organization. Together they will perform a concert at the Weinberg Center for the Arts to honor her hometown and to pay special tribute to Mildred Trevvett, the (now-retired) teacher at Governor Thomas Johnson High School who Ediger-Kordzaia says made an indelible impact on her musical life and career.

Ediger-Kordzaia claims to be one of dozens, "if not hundreds," of students whom Trevvett inspired to pursue careers in music.

"Her teaching materials were remarkably imaginative and innovative, and she tailored them individually to every student," she said. "There was no limit to what Miss Trevvett would do to help her students grow in music."

Ediger-Kordzaia recalls that, upon graduating from high school, she tried to thank her beloved teacher for being so important an influence in her life. "Miss Trevvett told me that what she had done for me was a gift," Ediger-Kordzaia said, "and that my future should entail doing the same for others."

Taking seriously her teacher's parting words, Ediger-Kordzaia now spreads the gospel of music according to Trevvett in her work with the Harp Ensemble and its parent organization, the HARPS Foundation.

"My students," Ediger-Kordzaia said, "are the next generation of musicians--Miss Trevvett's musical grandchildren." These "grandchildren," under the capable direction of Ediger-Kordzaia, have chosen to dedicate the concert to Trevvett, who will be in attendance at this special event.

Ediger-Kordzaia has been uncommonly effective in passing along her passion for music to her students. Her musical progeny constitute a unique and sophisticated performing ensemble, consisting of children between the ages of eight and eighteen, who, after at least one year of private study, have successfully demonstrated a firm understanding of the mechanics of harp playing, as well as discipline, good practice habits and a long term commitment to the group and its goals.

Such qualities are essential to membership in the Harp Ensemble, because the group's schedule is grueling. Rehearsing from seven to nine hours every week and performing approximately fifteen concerts per year, these talented young players have appeared in such important American venues as the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Carnegie Hall, and, internationally, at the Maastricht Music Festival in the Netherlands, Scotland's Edinburgh Music Festival and in France's Paris Music Festival.

In May 2004, with Virginia's Richmond Symphony, the Harp Ensemble gave the world premiere of "When Twilight Falls," a work composed specifically for them by the American harpist and composer Laura Zaerr.

Excerpts from "When Twilight Falls," a concert fantasy on Celtic lullabies, highlight the Harp Ensemble's varied program on Sunday, as well as technically and musically demanding works by Vivaldi, Praetorius, Handel and the legendary harpist Carlos Salzedo. They will also perform their signature piece, "Malagueña," by the Spanish composer Lecuona.

Over fifty children participate in HARPS Foundation endeavors. In addition to the harp ensemble itself and its corollary and preparatory activities, the organization sponsors a Harp Therapy program, which Ediger-Kordzaia says is unique in the nation. According to Ediger-Kordzaia, the program is centered around peer mentoring.

"Under the supervision of a professional therapist, our ensemble players teach harp playing individually to students with physical, emotional and mental disabilities," she said. "The benefits are enormous. We have been able to show measurable improvement in the muscle tone and fine and gross motor coordination of these children. But, beyond that, the regular interaction between disabled and non-disabled youngsters improves social skills and facilitates mainstreaming in the larger society. These challenged students thrive."

The American Youth Harp Ensemble players thrive as well, and no child is denied entrance to the program. Through generous corporate sponsorships, grant funding and support by individuals, the organization has been empowered to reach out to disadvantaged youth.

"No student is left behind for lack of means to pay," Ediger-Kordzaia said. "All that is required is desire and effort."

With hard work and Ediger-Kordzaia's careful nurturing, the American Youth Harp Ensemble players grow into accomplished adults. According to Ediger-Kordzaia, the vast majority of Harp Ensemble alumnae have gone on to college, often with sizable scholarships. Several of the alumnae have continued their musical careers at such prestigious academic institutions as the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and at Ediger-Kordzaia's alma mater, the Oberlin Conservatory.

Ediger-Kordzaia is convinced that their success can be traced back to her own life-transforming high-school studies with Mildred Trevvett. "With luck," she said, "Miss Trevvett's legacy will continue for generations."

The American Youth Harp Ensemble appears in Frederick under the auspices of the BRAVO! classical music series, a collaboration between the Weinberg Center for the Arts and Frederick Community College. A portion of the proceeds for this event will benefit classical music programming at the Weinberg Center and scholarships for Frederick Community College music students.

American Youth Harp Ensemble

When: 3 p.m. Sunday

Where: Weinberg Center for the Arts, 20 West Patrick St., Frederick

Tickets: $20 for adults, $18 for seniors, $3 for students

For information: 301-228-2828