Elise Krueger was once a typical six-year-old who couldn’t sit still for piano lessons. But harp music that accompanied a television program about an abducted child stopped her in her tracks.
“I was like, ‘Wow, I want to do that. I want to play that. I didn’t really know what they were talking about on the news, obviously. I just was so in love with that instrument,” the University of Findlay senior explained.
That chance experience ultimately led to Krueger performing on May 26 at Carnegie Hall, a dream come true for many musicians. Krueger was invited to perform in New York City with more than 50 members of the Ohio-based Hudson Festival Choir, and eagerly took advantage of the opportunity.
“It’s mind blowing, “ said Krueger. “ “I’m not a music major. I’m not a music minor. It (playing the harp) is just something I’ve done my entire life. Getting to play at Carnegie Hall is the highest accomplishment I could ever reach as a harpist and as a musician.”
The Strongsville, Ohio native is a physical therapy major who plays and competes in her spare time. She has taken part in some University of Findlay musical group performances; Director of Bands Jack Taylor helped lure her to UF with compelling information about music department offerings.
She also is occasionally hired to play at wedding ceremonies. “I love playing at weddings. It’s amazing to me that I’m able to provide music that people will remember for the rest of their lives. Being able to help people’s dreams come true is an honor,” she said.
Watch Krueger demonstrate her technique by clicking here.
Her talent was cultivated after intense lobbying to her initially skeptical parents.
“Basically nonstop for a year I’d pester them and would request to see pictures on the Internet of harps. I would ask, ‘Can we watch PBS and see if a harp is on?’ So I was really persistent about it. Since then, I’ve never not wanted to play it. I’ve never wanted to slow down. It’s just something I always wanted to do.”
What most interests her about the instrument is its “different and unique” sound, she said, along with the feelings it elicits in listeners.
Krueger studied under the late Joceyln Chang, a lauded harpist from Cleveland who was a founding member and principal harpist of the Grammy Award-winning Cleveland Chamber Orchestra.
She has taken advantage of other musical learning opportunities too. During her senior year of high school, she attended the International Harp Festival in Scotland, where she benefited from the tutelage of, and performed with, some of the best harpists in the world. She also attended the Ohio Scottish Art School, an annual weeklong camp at Oberlin College. The latter is “where I’ve met so many amazing musicians,” and which sparked her interest Scottish music, she said.
She considers herself a Scottish harpist, or “harper,” to use the proper term. The style of play is different from the more traditional pedal harp. Scottish pieces “have different elements to them that aren’t seen in classical music as often, like jigs and reels,” Krueger said. Her favorite piece to play is called “Fire Dance,” an upbeat, fast passage from Petit Suite by David Watkins that incorporates melodies one would not necessarily expect to hear from a harp.
Playing Scottish tunes “is super fun,” she said, and allows her to intermingle classical pieces as well.
At Carnegie Hall, the Hudson Festival Choir, conducted by Thomas Scott, director of music ministries at First Congregation Church in Hudson, performed Gabriel Faure’s Requiem in D Minor. The piece is lengthy, about 40 minutes, and includes seven movements.
Although Faure’s Requiem was composed as a Catholic Mass for the dead, Hudson Festival Choir members reportedly had the time of their lives performing in such a hallowed venue.
Krueger described it as “an absolutely magnificent performance and such an amazing experience playing on that stage.”
“I did a public tour before the concert and learned about the history and tremendous acoustics of that hall,” she continued. “It’s so amazing knowing I’ve played on a stage that so many historic musicians have, and I’m part of the history of that stage now too.”
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