Wanting to serve her passion for teaching full-time, Elizabeth Blakeslee recently retired as second harpist with the National Symphony Orchestra, a position she held for seventeen years. She has been Harp Professor at George Mason University since 2012 and in 2016 was appointed Harp Professor at Washington Adventist University. Fall 2016 marked the inaugural season of the AYPO Harp Ensemble, with twelve talented young harpists. She also maintains a private studio of about 30 harp students. Ms. Blakeslee received her Bachelor of Music degree at Auburn University under the direction of Marjorie Tyre and her Master of Music degree at Virginia Commonwealth University under the direction of Marilyn Costello. She has held principal harp positions in the Richmond Symphony Orchestra, the Orquesta Sinfónica de Colombia, and guest principal harpist with the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra. Ms. Blakeslee was the harp instructor at the Shenandoah Conservatory of Music in Winchester, VA from 1996 until 2008. Her students have won competitions at the local, state, and national levels and have been accepted to the top conservatories in the nation.
My over-arching philosophy of teaching is to meet students where they are in terms of musical level and aptitude, and guide them through the next steps to move forward in development. With young children I focus on a strong technical foundation so they have the tools to express themselves musically. I also stress music fundamentals (notation and rhythm), relaxation, good practice habits, and attention to sound production and musicality. I encourage and facilitate participation in school or other ensembles to lead them to become well-rounded musicians. To hone their performance skills, each year my pre-college students present three or four studio recitals, and have opportunities for master classes and evaluations by other professional harpists, as well as joint studio recitals with other instrumentalists. The focus at the universities and summer programs where I teach is on professional development, with an emphasis on standard classical harp solo and orchestral repertoire. This involves more rigorous requirements in terms of repertoire, development of style and commitment to practicing. I have many adult avocational students and I help them work towards their own goals in studying the harp, be it for relaxation, to play in church, or just for their own enjoyment.
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