Classes teach harp basics

Lyrika Holmes (left) of Artz for the Harp leads Ezra Durden through his first lesson at the South Cobb Regional Library.

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Lyrika Holmes (left) of Artz for the Harp leads Ezra Durden through his first lesson at the South Cobb Regional Library.

When education budgets are tight, many schools struggle to keep arts programs vital and funded. Musician Lyrika Holmes knows it’s even more difficult when the program centers around harps.

“Harps are usually not accessible as part of a school’s musical curriculum,” said the Powder Springs resident who has been playing the stringed instrument since middle school. “As a performer, I knew there was a plethora of opportunities here to introduce them, and I thought that would be a great program to start.”

In 2015, Holmes launched a program in Rockdale and Fulton counties that took her and kid-sized harps into schools twice a week. As it grew, she was expanded to free and sliding-scale fee classes with various after-school groups. But in 2017, she accepted the role as lead soul singer with Cirque du Soleil and left the metro area. The harp program was reenergized a year later when she returned to Powder Springs.

The current version, dubbed Artz for the Harp, has expanded into local schools and libraries across Fulton, Cobb, Decatur and Atlanta. Holmes has also recruited music students from Georgia State, UGA, Georgia Southern and Kennesaw as interns to help with classes. Throughout the year, they can be found toting 15 to 20 harps to workshops around the metro area.

“These are ‘starter harps’: They’re easy for beginners and less intimidating than the big ones with 47 strings and pedals,” said Holmes, who, along with teaching, performs a range of musical genres on harp in about 50 gigs a year. “These harps have just 26 strings, but they still produce a great sound.”

A typical session, open to both kids and adults, lasts about 75 minutes and includes a brief introduction to the harp’s parts and a few easy songs most learners can pick up immediately. At a recent class at the South Cobb Regional Library in Mableton, Rebeca Durden’s 7-year-old son, Ezra, learned to pluck out a tune in one lesson.

“He said it was pretty easy,” said Durden. “To him, it sounded like a piano, and he was transposing from the keys to the harp strings. He brought home music sheets and was practicing on the piano to hear how each chord sounds.”

Durden signed her son up for the program to see if he’d take to it as he has the piano and guitar.

“He’s discovering what he wants to do,” she said. “He really had fun with it. In fact, he asked me to buy him a child-sized harp.”

Parents are often the stumbling block to get kids to try a harp, said Holmes.

“That’s where most of the hesitation is,” she said. “But it’s very similar to the piano, except you don’t play with your pinkie. And once we don’t limit children with our thinking, they can do so much. I’m grateful I had my family’s support and found teachers who could connect me with the harp.”

Information about free workshops and classes at Artz for the Harp is online at artzfortheharp.org.


SEND US YOUR STORIES. Each week we look at programs, projects and successful endeavors at area schools, from pre-K to grad school. To suggest a story, contact H.M. Cauley at hm_cauley@yahoo.com or 770-744-3042.