Beyond the Orchestra: Felice Pomeranz on the Versatility of a Harp Career

Bryan Parys
May 29, 2018
Harpist and professor Felice Pomeranz
Felice Pomeranz
Image courtesy of the artist

When harpist Felice Pomeranz, professor in the String Department, first set out to find gainful employment as a harpist, you could say the deck was stacked against her. The only orchestra job opening she could find was in New Zealand. Part-time gigs paid significantly less to harpists than they did to other players. And for years, men held all the orchestra positions, even though, historically, the harp has been predominantly played by women.

To carve out not just a career, but a path for future harpists, Pomeranz created the Gilded Harps in 1982—a consortium of harpists for hire for a variety of gigs. Building on that, she came to Berklee in the early 2000s to launch a harp curriculum that focused not just on classical repertoire, but jazz and improvisational music.

In this episode of Sounds of Berklee, Pomeranz shares her experiences crafting more inclusive, creative, and sustainable career opportunities for harpists. She talks about while she sets a high bar for academic rigor in her class, she also stresses the role of wild creativity, saying, “you can’t really criticize creativity. It just is… You can’t give that a D.”

Produced by Bryan Parys
Recorded and engineered by Jimmy Lim and Tony Brown

Listen to a Spotify playlist that explores the many facets of harp music, featuring Pomeranz, other Berklee harpists, and more: