NHS Expands Orchestra Opportunities Through Harp Lessons

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A new yet familiar sound can be heard in the hallways of Northport High School – the harp. Students in ninth, tenth and 11th grade have the opportunity to learn the instrument thanks to a local grant and a decades old instrument that has been resurfaced and put to good use. 

After remembering that a centennial harp, originally purchased for the school in the 1960s, was still available for use in the high school, Director of Orchestras Michael Susinno decided that now was the time to bring the instrument back to life. Purchased at the time by former string teacher and director of music Dora Clarke, students have also been learning about her lasting impact on the district’s music program and have lovingly named the harp, “Dora.”  

While previously the instrument was reserved for students who were able to take lessons outside of the school day, an unexpected cultural arts grant allowed the district to recruit experienced harp teacher Susan Mann. Due to the limited number of instruments, only four students, selected via a lottery system, are able to be participate. 

“This was one of many dreams that we felt we could make into a reality and provide another interesting experience for students,” shared Mr. Susinno.  

Ms. Mann will be teaching the students the instrument throughout the semester, with the hope being that students will feel experienced enough to play the harp in future orchestra performances. The harp has become less frequent in high schools over the last few decades due mainly to the cost of the instrument. The district is hoping to remove as many barriers as possible to allow for more students to have access to this opportunity. 

When asked why students should be encouraged to learn the harp, Ms. Mann said “I have found that for students that are somewhat shy, playing the harp instills a lot of confidence. You have to be an independent part of the orchestra while fitting in with everyone, and be confident in what you’re doing.” 

“I have had so many students bloom into wonderful young men and women from playing the harp and the experience of it,” she added.