Patrons attending our first Masterworks concert on September 25th will not only enjoy performances by the Long Bay Symphony led by Maestro Charles Jones Evans, but will also get to witness Ms. Grace Roepke perform her craft: the harp. Our first guest artist of the season hails from Chanhassen, Minnesota. After graduating with both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Music, she currently studies under the instruction of Yolanda Kondonassis, a Grammy-nominated harpist, as a recipient of the CIM Orchestral Career Fellowship. Ms. Roepke is the recipient of many awards and honors, including top prizes from the American Harp Society National Competition, the Dutch Harp Festival World Harp Competition, and the Cleveland Institute of Music Concerto Competition. In addition to all of these things, she is also a music educator with her own private studio and an advocate for people with autism. It is plenty safe to say that we are very lucky to have her on the stage for the first concert of our 35th Anniversary season.
At what age did you begin playing the harp, and what made you choose this instrument?
I began playing the harp when I was six years old. My grandmother is a harpist and I'm her only granddaughter, so when I was born, she brought her troubadour harp over to my parents’ house. Every year they would ask if I wanted lessons, and one year I finally said yes!
What has been your most impactful memory associated with your journey in learning your instrument?
This is such a great question, and I feel so lucky to have so many memories to choose from! One that comes to mind is the first harp recital I attended, and being completely entranced by the student performing. I remember turning to my mom and saying, "I want to play that piece!" and she responded with "Well, then you need to practice." After a few years of lessons and many hours of practicing, I still remember finally getting to learn the piece that student played and feeling an abundance of pride that my hard work had paid off.
Our first masterworks installment is titled “Trailblazers: From Beethoven to Borodin & Beyond;” the idea behind this concert is to highlight composers who ventured beyond the conventions of their time (i.e. Beethoven, Ginastera, Joan Tower, etc.). In your opinion, what is the value in venturing beyond what is socially popular or “trendy” versus staying in the vein of what you know?
There is so much to be gained as both a performer and listener by venturing beyond what is familiar to us! In my opinion, life would be so boring if we performed and listened to the same handful of pieces. The abundance of repertoire we have written for us is astounding, and it is always so exciting as a performer to delve into unfamiliar works and explore the ideas of different composers. As an audience member, I can't think of anything more exciting than listening to a piece you've never heard before! It always amazes me how different composers can make the same ensemble sound completely unique. Between the works of Beethoven, Ginastera, and Tower, I know audience members will feel this same sense of awe when attending the Long Bay Symphony Concert on September 25th!
To learn more about Ms. Roepke, be sure to check out her website at https://www.graceroepke.com! We will see you at the symphony soon!
 Yolanda Kondonassis, accessed September 14, 2022, https://www.yolandaharp.com.
 Grace Roepke, accessed September 14, 2022, https://www.graceroepke.com/about.