Maeve Gilchrist

In Their Own Words

“My two worlds are folk and improvisation. Quite a lot of my students also come from a folk music background and are interested in going deeper—in improvising in a folk music context. Few people think of the harp as an instrument for improvisation, which makes little sense to me. Apart from the fact that harmonically it’s harder to access changes, it’s similar to piano in orchestrational scope and range. I work with students to push the boundaries and find ways to utilize the instrument in a contemporary musical setting."

“So many harp players spend a lot of time playing by themselves, and their rhythm suffers because of this, so it’s really one of my favorite things to teach. One thing we have going for us is that we have two hands, two voices. By focusing on strengthening our rhythmic core, we can practice hand independence and use the instrument to its best advantage. By separating our two hands, we expand the scope of our arrangements and accompaniment, and essentially duet with ourselves!"

“In general, the bar is very low for harp playing in contemporary music. It’s perceived as such a pretty instrument—associated with an ethereal, wispy kind of sound—so people are easily impressed. For that reason a lot of players stop at a certain level, or are satisfied with very little. I feel rhythm has a lot to do with that. I don’t want my students to play to low expectations. The contrapuntal, textural, and rhythmic possibilities of the instrument far outweigh its harmonic disadvantages, and it’s important that they are fully explored. I tell my students, ‘Don’t settle for anything less than the absolute best. And don’t be afraid of putting yourself over your head in musical situations. Making mistakes is your path to finding your own voice and your own way of navigating your instrument.’"

“Berklee students have as much to offer me as I them. My role is ‘tweaking’ certain aspects of their playing and hopefully expanding their musical palette. An improviser’s greatest gift is imagination; I hope to arouse that in my students by passing on my curiosity and wonder at music and art. Also, finding your own voice is really important, embracing your musical and cultural background, then incorporating hard work and inspiration to create a sound uniquely yours—not only for your own artistic satisfaction, but also to better the industry as a whole."

“Ideally, success is a deep satisfaction with what you are doing, knowing you are being the best musician you can be, and embracing the joy and spirit of music. Unfortunately, we all have to pay the bills. Being a versatile musician with a great attitude and work ethic will bring you a long way professionally and help you maintain the lifestyle you want.”