Elizabeth teaches in-person lessons out of her home studio in the close-in Alberta neighborhood of NE Portland, OR, and remote lessons via Skype, Facetime, and Google Chat. She sees students on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.
Elizabeth takes a holistic approach to teaching harp, focusing on technique, ear-training, sight-reading, music theory and arrangement, understanding different musical idioms, musical expression, improvisation, collaboration, and cognitive-behavioral strategies to help with practice and performance. Students are encouraged to choose their own repertoire and learn at their own pace. Regular students also have access to a variety of video tutorials that she has privately published on YouTube to aid with practice at home.
The finger position Elizabeth teaches is a relaxed version of the classical technique pioneered by French harpist Carlos Salzedo, which she finds works exceptionally well for the tension and repertoire of the Celtic harp. She has also studied Grandjany method (the other of the two primary schools of classical harp technique) and Paraguayan folk harp, and has extensively explored Irish and Scottish traditional harp techniques. She welcomes students with backgrounds in all styles of harp playing; her primary goal is that students learn to play with as much relaxation as possible, and avoid discomfort or injury.
Lessons at Elizabeth's NE Portland home studio and on Skype are $60 an hour, $45 for 45 minutes, or $35 for a half hour (most students choose the 45 minute option). Students who rent a harp from Elizabeth and are in weekly lessons receive a $5 discount for each lesson. For those who aspire to learn harp but are financially incapable, Elizabeth will sometimes barter lessons for house cleaning and painting, skilled home improvement, web and graphic design, professional photography, recording studio time, and skilled bodywork like licensed massage therapy and acupuncture. Feel free to inquire!
No prior musical experience is necessary for lessons and all ages are welcome. Parents of younger children are asked to audit their child's lessons in order to help guide their practice.
Tools that harp students need to begin lessons include: a practice instrument, a chromatic tuner ("Clear Tune" is a great tuning app you can download for $5), a metronome, a blank notebook, the book Teach Yourself to Play the Folk Harp by Sylvia Woods (for beginning students only), a smartphone for video recording (if you have one), extremely short fingernails, and a robust sense of humor. Also, you'll need some time on your hands; plan on allocating a minimum of 30 minutes per day for harp practice.
For those who are not ready to commit to buying a harp but would like to test-drive one, Elizabeth has quite a few professional quality rental harps available in assorted sizes. Brands include Dusty Strings, Triplett, Stoney End, Blevins, and Portland luthier Larry Kulwicki. Prices for rentals range from $35 per month for a 22-string, partially levered harp to $65/month for a fully levered 34-string harp.
Here's what Elizabeth's students have to say about her:
Elizabeth, we've loved watching and listening to you interact with Ellie at her lessons. You are a natural teacher. Your positive energy and encouragement keeps Ellie focused and in the moment. We think of your teaching style as gentle, intelligent and deep. I know Ellie values how you've taken the time to get to know and understand her -- as a student, and as a whole person. You find appropriate challenges for her. We appreciate your professionalism, your thoughtful way of being, and the warmth you bring to our home.
You have also made a bright, personal impression on Ellie that will be with her forever. As parents, we are so grateful!
-- Nikki S., mother of Ellie (13yrs)
I came to Elizabeth with no previous musical experience and a little later in life than is common for someone hoping to gain some (I was 29). I did have a desire to though it competed with my others which had been long established. What was wonderful in working with Elizabeth is that she was committed to that desire despite what else would interfere (read: when I wasn't as faithful to practice). I was always thankful for her patience even as I would lose mine at my inability to master a piece. From the beginning it was an encouraging atmosphere with mindful critiques that made me realize how genuinely invested she was. In moving from Oregon I knew that Elizabeth's classes were one thing that I wouldn't easily be able to replace though I am grateful for my time with her and the music that carries on as a result.
-- Sloane S.
Elizabeth is a wonderful harp teacher, she is skilled at finding just the trick that works for me, she has a great way about her. Elizabeth is a seasoned professional and will get the best out of you. Elizabeth's style is just right for me, a combination of patience, humor and pushing me to improve my skills. She does expect that one comes to a lesson prepared and practiced which I really appreciate, it is a pleasure studying harp with Elizabeth!
-- Renée S.
Elizabeth has been a great teacher for my 11 year old daughter. She is a calm, patient, and wonderfully positive role model with a wealth of musical knowledge and experience. We struck gold when we found her!
-- Jennifer L.
Elizabeth is a dedicated, talented and patient teacher who makes learning how to play the harp fun and interesting. I've always wanted to learn how to play the harp and finally decided to act on it (at age 29) when I saw her harp was for rent through Craiglist. After a pleasant email exchange she said she could take me on as a student. Having only one year of middle-school band experience under my belt, I was very novice. But I never felt intimidated thanks to Elizabeth. In each lesson she gave me just enough information and encouragement to make small, but meaningful progress. I looked forward to our lessons and was really excited as I began to play songs I knew. Elizabeth's genuine praise and passion for the harp gave me the confidence to continue. I highly recommend her as a teacher and encourage any one who wants to learn the harp to contact her.
-- Kate C.
I am an older harp student and had some hesitation about learning to play this lovely instrument. Elizabeth quickly alleviated my concerns and I have now grown from her instruction for three years. She is patient, positive, and professional!
-- Rhondie E.
Elizabeth is a truly gifted music teacher. She is patient, kind and has the depth of experience that makes you feel comfortable placing your trust in her hands. I started out not knowing if I was capable of learning to play the harp, or any instrument for that matter, but thanks to Elizabeth's skillful guidance, I am beginning to believe that I can do it. I would recommend Elizabeth to anyone who is interested in not only learning to play music, but also those who want to understand music
-- Shaina T.
We have been taking harp lessons with Elizabeth for over a year now. Elizabeth is a talented, patient and motivating teacher. There are struggles with learning an instrument, Elizabeth has help our daughter work through them. There is joy and celebration in learning a piece of music and we have had that also. The harp has become daily moment of beauty and peace in our home. Elizabeth is a fantastic musician and teacher. I enthusiastically recommend her. She is among the best in Portland.
-- Maxwell R., father of Vivian (8 yrs)
I have been taking lessons from Elizabeth for nearly four years starting as a beginner. She is very knowledgeable and gives a very professional lesson in a relaxed setting. I would recommend her to anyone looking for a harp teacher at any level of play.
-- Larry K.