As an alumna, a faculty member, and a parent of a student, Chrysyn Harp has completed the Settlement trifecta.
Her experience as a student began with a summer camp when she was 11. “We did chamber music, string orchestra, band, jazz band – and everyone was required to sing in choir, too,” she recalls. Later, she came to the Mary Louise Curtis Branch to study chamber music with Charles Forbes.
Her interest in music started even earlier, though. “At age 7, from day one, I had already made up my mind that this is what I wanted to do with my life,” she says.
Her development as a musician took a few twists and turns from there, including starting on viola while also serving as concertmaster in the All-City Orchestra and at the High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, better known as CAPA.
As a faculty member, Harp has taught violin, both traditional and Suzuki methods, viola, and chamber music over the years. Her current students are either beginners – Suzuki students just starting out on their instruments – or teenagers, whom she calls her “old ones.”
As her younger students progress toward being “old ones,” Harp asks them, usually, around seventh grade, “what do you want to do? Is music something you need to do, or something you like to do?” Those with a strong desire often ramp up in preparation for further studies, auditions, and the next steps in becoming musicians.
While Harp does some playing outside of Settlement, like orchestra gigs and recording sessions, and occasionally fills in with the junior and intermediate orchestras for concerts, she no longer plays during lessons. “I was reflecting on my teaching, and I realized I was playing too much,” she says. She now demonstrates holds, fingerings and bowing technique by standing close to her students and holding the instrument with them. “It's all muscle memory - they can feel how it’s supposed to feel,” she says. “So far, it’s been working. I’m going to stick with it.”
Finally, as a parent, Harp’s dedication to music has undoubtedly served her daughter, also named Chrysyn, very well. Harp introduced her daughter to the violin – a 1/32 scale model – at 18 months, and gradually began playing games with her using the instrument and bow.
The younger Chrysyn started out with Suzuki method instruction, playing her first Suzuki recital at age 3, but has moved on to traditional instruction on violin. She might be one of the busiest almost-seven-year-olds around: she also plays in the Mary Louise Curtis junior orchestra, takes ballet classes, and receives individual instruction in piano from Harue Sato.
“They’re a perfect match,” Harp says. “I saw how she worked with her students and how they progressed. She’s very thorough.”
Harp’s daughter has displayed signs of having perfect pitch and has a strong interest in composing, improvising, and playing by ear. Whether all this stems from early introduction to music or the encouragement she receives both at school and at home, it’s already yielding impressive results.
“This place is her home,” Harp says. “She’s been here since she was six weeks old and I went back to teaching.”