Harpist studied under masters in Europe

By John Doe

Along with earning her bachelors degree in music this past spring from Oakland University, Laura Palmieri, currently an OU nursing student, won the Hollingsworth Music Scholarship.

The award, which recognizes quality music talent, allowed Palmieri to travel to Bern, Switzerland to study and play the harp alongside professional harpists from all over the world.

Palmieri was one of 20 harp students across the world to take part in the International Harp Masters Academy program.

Teachers at the program included professional harpists and professors of harp Milda Agazarian (Russian Music Academy and the Moscow Special Gnessin School of College); Isabelle Moretti (National Superior Conservatory of Paris for Music); and Skaila Kanga (Royal Academy of Music in England).

“I was lucky to have a lesson with them. It’s very difficult to get them,” Palmeiri said. “I learned much about harp ideas and different techniques. It was the best time of my life.”

Each day was a full day of harp lessons with a professor and then master classes, where they were able to listen to other harpists.

“It was a little scary. I didn’t know what to expect,” Palmeiri said. “I didn’t know how they would react to the piece I prepared.”

First encouraged by her mother at the age of 10, Palmieri has been playing the harp for 13 years and the piano for almost 15 years.

“My mother always wanted a little girl to play the harp,” Palmieri said. “Ever since then, I’ve loved it.”

She has been playing at a college level for five years and is a member of OU’s symphony orchestra and serves as the principal harpist for the Oakland symphonic band and Oakland wind symphony.

As well as having performed at the 2009 Michigan Music Festival and at Detroit Orchestra Hall, she teaches the harp from beginner to advanced levels.

“Laura came with her technique already. She is a very strong player, a very solid, stable player,” said Kerstin Allvin, Palmieri’s harp teacher for five years at OU.

Allvin has been teaching harp at OU for 10 years. For about five years, Palmieri was the only harp student at OU.

“She’s just an excellent teacher and my study with her is just incredible,” Palmieri said. “I was comfortable in Europe because of my study with her. The things they mentioned,  I knew already because of my teacher.”

Palmieri plays a 47-stringed Concert Grand Petal Harp, which are usually found in symphony orchestras.

“You can do so much with this harp,” Palmieri said.

Favoring Renaissance and Baroque pieces such as Bach, Palmieri also plays modern music, such as Lady Gaga.

It can take Palmieri up to six months to learn a new college-level piece.

Palmieri often plays either the harp or the piano at events such as weddings, showers, receptions and birthdays.

“The harp is just a special instrument,” Palmieri said. “It’s a very unique, beautiful instrument it’s a rarity among the music world.”

Palmieri hopes to someday pursue a master’s degree in music and possibly travel with her harp.