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Interview with Rosetty on harp education 

December 2015 


Rosetty was classically educated, yet already a performing singer-songwriter when she started playing the harp. A conservatory director once threatened her to throw her out of school for pursuing her development in jazz and pop, but she persisted and spent 35 years doing just that. Nowadays, she teaches classical music students about jazz harmonisation and improvisation, contributing to the harp earning its very own place in pop, jazz and world music. 


Your (musical) life: 


What are your current activities as a jazz harpist?  

At the moment I mainly teach jazz harp lessons and I am working on the preparations and compositions for my new cd. 

I have a permanent position at Codarts Rotterdam to teach the classical students jazz harmonisation and improvisation.  


What were you like as a child? Were you always passionate about music? 

Music was the most important thing to me as a child. I come from a musical family. My grandparents were both professional musicians.  

Which music did you grow up with? 

Next to my classical piano lessons, I was especially interested in pop and jazz, amongst others The Beatles and Sinatra. 


In your own early harp/music lessons, were you already jazz focused? 

When I started harp lessons at age 17, I was a singer-songwriter performing in clubs, on tv and radio. 


Who were your teachers? 

In the Netherlands, there were no jazz harpists. My piano teacher was Hans Dercksen, and my harp teacher was Vera Badings. Both were purely classical musicians. As a matter of fact, Vera even forbid me to develop myself in jazz and pop any further. 

Once, after I had been on TV, I was called into the office of the director of the Amsterdam Conservatory. He threatened to throw me out of school if I continued doing that. That’s what it was like back then… 

But I knew what I wanted, and after auditioning for the radio orchestras and being able to choose between the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and the Metropole Orchestra, the choice was easy enough. 


What/who are you inspirations/inspirators? 

In the Metropole orchestra, I learned from the greats on a daily basis. Mike Stern, Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans, Phil Woods, Toots Tielemans, Brecker Brothers, Bob Brookmeyer, just to name a few. 

In pop and latin, we worked with people like Tony Bennett, Ivan Linz, Steve Vai and Clare Fisher. In an environment like this, you learn almost automatically. 

I feel very privileged to have had this experience. By listening all the time, one can learn so much. Sometimes I sought advice with collegues. This way, I have been able to work on my musical development for 35 years in a row. 


Your experience as a educator in harp music 


You are guest teacher at several conservatories in the Netherlands. All conservatories have a classical harp curriculum; how did you incorporate jazz into the program?  

Slowly, conservatories are beginning to realise that harpists with a purely classical education can have a hard time during their professional life. Thus I was asked to start teaching jazz harmonisation and improvisation in Rotterdam. 


Last year, your first full time Jazz Harp student, Carina Backhuijs, graduated for her Bachelors. She is the first Jazz Harp Bachelor Graduate in the Netherlands, quite an achievement, how was the road towards this special achievement for you as her teacher and mentor?  

Carina fell for jazz. She was very passionate about it, and in her initial conservatory studies she felt limited by on the regular classical curriculum. 

After listening to my cd ‘Out of the Blue’, she contacted me, and she was able to convice her conservatory (Fontys Hogeschool, Tilburg, The Netherlands) to have me be her teacher. For me, it was quite an adventure, since there was no beaten path yet.  

But I trusted her, and she trusted me. 

I conceived a teaching plan for her that worked out very well. Jeroen van Vliet (jazz pianist and composer) also contributed to this. 


How do you advice your students to practice jazz? And/or, how do you advice classical focussed students to add jazz to their practice routine? 

I regard improvising as ‘instant composing’. Students can think about improvisation by means of scales (amongst others), and I have them write this down to start with.  

Also, listening to ‘jazz cats’ is very important. 


What should harp education look like in the future? 

In the future, harp education will undoubtedly be somewhat less classical focused, and include more styles like world music and jazz. 


Your work on educational material: 


Can you tell us more about the Harping together series? And how did you get to producing it? 

The fact that there were no materials for jazz harp in The Netherlands inspired me to develop my Harping Together series, and a method especially geared towards jazz harp, which I use to make classical harpists understand something about jazz within a short period of time. 


You told us you are working on a new method for harpists to learn jazz, can you tell us more about that? 

I just finished writing Harpiness. A method for lever harp, acquainting students with some basics and with simple chord symbols, so they will regard a chord schedule as normal early on. 


And more.. 


Do you have any advice for beginning jazz harp students? 

In the harp world, the term jazz harp is often used for music that is quite different from what the rest of the music world regards as jazz. I therefore advise beginning jazz harp students to listen with their ears wide open to especially other, non-harpist jazz cats. 

Also because, on the harp, one often falls back into the same licks all the time. 


How do you regard the harp in the future? 

The harp has a long way to go. Through the electric/electroacoustic harp, we will encounter the harp in modern setting on stage more and more. 

Apart from its limitations, the harp offers very specific features as well. The challenge will be to fully explore those features, enabling our instrument to conquer a place in jazz and world music with its very own voice. 


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