Sylvia Woods Harp Center 
very late September 2015 Newsletter
SylviaA Personal Note from Sylvia

I had great plans to get this September newsletter out to you earlier in the month.  But, as you see, I've just made it in under the wire.  My best-laid plans were thrown out the window when I was a juror on a civil trial for the first 3 weeks of the month. I've been playing a game of "catch-up" ever since.  I'm hoping to do better in October!

Many of you wrote to tell me how much you enjoyed last month's article on my former employees and staff.  Thanks for the feedback.  I've decided to keep featuring these wonderful workers in upcoming newsletters.  This month's spotlight is on Aedan MacDonnell.  Her two publications are on sale, and you can read all about her in her article below.

This month I'm also including a contest.  You could be the winner of a $25 Harp Center eGift Certificate! 

This week is a big anniversary for me.  I've now been living full-time in Hawaii for two years.  I'm very happy here, and so glad I made the big move!

Sylvia Woods

article1Contest: Tips for Playing Outdoors
Sylvia Woods at Kauai wedding
I know that June is traditionally the month for weddings.  But here on Kauai, September has been my busiest wedding month yet . . . with 4 weddings in the past 3 weeks.
(This is a photo of me playing at my friend Nancy's wedding in 2009.)

Since this is Hawaii, almost all of the weddings are outside.  So I continually have to battle sunburn, sand, passing rain showers, and on-shore winds.  On the plus side, two of these recent weddings were also blessed with rainbows! 

This past Sunday's wedding at a major hotel was made particularly challenging by winds whipped up by a passing hurricane.  Luckily, the hurricane bypassed the Hawaiian islands, but we did get some stronger than normal winds.  My 2 hours of playing was constantly backed up by "wind harp," creating some interesting effects.  I was very happy that I had all my music on my iPad instead of sheet music, because that was much easier to deal with in the wind.  I was also very glad that the sound man had a sand bag to put over the legs of my music stand to keep it from blowing over onto my harp.  Otherwise I would have been in big trouble! 

While I was playing, I was trying to figure out the best way to secure my music stand in the future, since wind is often a factor here.  I was thinking about a sand bag (but that seems too heavy to carry all the time), or modifying tent stakes with loops on the top to put around the stand legs (but would I then need to carry a hammer or mallet to secure them in the ground?), or attaching exercise ankle weights to the stand legs.  I haven't decided yet what might work best. 

Which brings us to our contest.


Do you have a tip that will help other harp players who play outside?
If so, you could win a $25 Harp Center eGift Certificate!

You can give helpful hints, tips, ideas, and suggestions for anything regarding playing outside.  Have you played out in the snow and cold when your fingers turned to ice?  Have you played out in the sweltering sun when your fingers were so sweaty they actually caused blisters?  Have you gotten attacked by a swarm of bees?  How did you survive???  What words of wisdom can you impart from your "hands-on" experience in mother nature?

Entering the contest is extremely easy:  just email your suggestion, hint, tip, or idea to by Monday, October 12.  Put on your thinking cap, and email your entry now!

Our distinguished judge (which will be me) will choose the best suggestion and award the prize.  I'll also feature the best ideas in an upcoming newsletter.  (An additional prize might also be given to anyone who can solve my music stand problem.)

Even if you're not the winner of the eGift Certificate, you'll still be a winner because you'll be helping harp players throughout the world who play outside in the elements.  Good luck!

thisMonthsSaleThis Month's Sale
This month's sale features 2 PDFs by Aedan MacDonnell, a former employee of the Harp Center.  I'm filling up the rest of the sale slots with some of the music that was requested by brides for the weddings I've played this month.

To get the 15% discount on the music listed below, enter the code word aedan in the Promo Code box on your shopping cart page and click "Enter Code" by October 12, 2015. For more information, see the 15% Off section at the bottom of this newsletter. 

saleSale Items: 15% off with aedan code 'til October 12
Levers at a Glance
Regular price: $4.45
15% off with aedan code
This handy reference sheet by Aedan MacDonnell takes the mystery out of sharping levers, tuning, and keys. It shows you the four most useful tunings, or keys, in which to tune your lever harp; the keys each tuning allows you to play in; and where to place your levers (up or down) to play in each key signature.
Regular price: $19.95
15% off with aedan code
This new publication includes music from Scotland, Ireland and other Celtic countries that has been traditionally played for wedding ceremonies, as well as traditional music suitable for processionals, meditation / candle lighting & recessionals.
22 Romantic Songs
Regular price: $24.95 and
15% off with aedan code
This book by Sylvia Woods includes 22 of the most popular romantic songs. Advanced beginners will be able to play the pieces at the front of the book that have no (or just a few) lever changes. The songs near the back of the book are more difficult, with more lever changes. Lyrics, fingerings, chord symbols, and lever and pedal changes are included.
A Thousand Years
Regular price: $7.95
15% off with aedan code
Sylvia Woods' 6-page harp arrangement of this romantic ballad from the Twilight Saga is in the key of C. No sharping levers are needed, as there are no lever changes required in the music. It is playable on lever or pedal harp, and is for advanced beginner to intermediate players. Fingerings, lyrics and chord symbols are included..
All of Me
Regular price: $7.95
15% off with aedan code
Sylvia Woods has made a 6-page arrangement of John Legend's beautiful love song.  It is for advanced beginner to intermediate lever or pedal harp players. The music is in the key of G, and there are no lever changes needed within the music. Fingerings, lyrics and chord symbols are included..
Regular price: $7.95
15% off with aedan code
Sylvia Woods has made two arrangements of this classic song by Sting: one for advanced beginners, and another for intermediate players.  Each arrangement is 4 pages long, and includes fingerings and chord symbols. Both versions are in the key of C and there are no lever or pedal changes required.

arrangerAedan MacDonnell - Arranger of the Month

Aedan MacDonnell is our featured arranger this month.  Here's what she has to say about herself and her music.

How it All Began
I loved watching cartoons when I was a kid. Who didn't? My favorites were Mighty Mouse and Bugs Bunny. Not because I liked the story-lines or the artwork, but because of the music.  I loved how it made me feel; uplifted, happy. And then I found dance at age 6. My favorite was tap. Being able to make sound to the music I loved, while playing it on my little 45 record player made me feel well, happy.
You can imagine my delight at age 7 when my parents bought an old, black upright piano. It was for my mother, but I found a John Thompson's Piano Book 1 in the bench and taught myself to play and read music. Within a few months my parents scraped together enough money for formal piano lessons. I spent the next 10 years studying classical piano. I was good at it, but never great. My teachers were very strict and the creative side of me wasn't allowed to be expressed, so I never put my heart and soul into it. But I never gave up on it either.
Fast forward another 10 years to the local music store in Glendale, CA.  I was browsing music when a book with a tan cover and drawing of a harp caught my eye. It was entitled, "The Celtic Harp, A Collection of the finest Old Airs & Dance Tunes from Ireland, Scotland & Wales ... arranged for easy Harp, also suitable for Piano." I bought it, took it home, played the music on my piano and immediately fell in love with the music. And, I decided I needed a harp. So I went to the yellow pages (we didn't have internet at that time) and found someone who was selling harps in Glendale. I made an appointment and showed up very excited and eager to own my first harp. The lady selling the harps was very nice and played the five harps she had for sale, all sitting in her living room. I said, "I'll take that one," handed her my credit card and took home my first harp. Oh, by the way, the wonderful lady who sold me my first harp in 1987, was the one and only Sylvia Woods!
Sylvia had just stopped taking new students, so she referred me to Deborah Friou, and I studied with her for the next 4 years. The harp gave me the freedom the piano never did. I remember in one of my early lessons I had been moving my body in time to the music. Deborah stopped me and I reverted back to my classical piano days and said, "I know, don't move my body." (One of my piano teachers actually kept a ruler on the piano and used it if you moved anything "inappropriately.")  She looked at me with surprise and said, "Oh no! You can absolutely move your body! You just need to keep your thumbs up." I can't describe my happiness when I found out that in folk music you don't have to play every single note as it is written on the page; you can improvise, have fun with it, experiment, be creative.
I do have to say that the classical training did give me an edge I wouldn't have had without it; it gave me the ability to be focused, to be disciplined in my practice, and to have great control over every movement. With that edge, I was able to begin playing in public within a year.
Although I do like classical music, I decided my heart belonged to Celtic so I began studying all styles of Celtic music, leaning heavily on Irish and Scottish. I traveled to Ireland to study at Cairde ne Cruite (Friends of the Irish Harp) with Maire Ni Chathasaigh  and Grainne Yeats. I was also fortunate enough to spend time with William Jackson, and Grainne Hambly.
At the Harp Center
One day I went to the Sylvia Woods Harp Center to look for music and to browse. Terri, who was working there at the time, asked me what I was up to. Not much, in between contract assignments - I created databases for companies like Avery and Ernst & Young, my harping was a side job at that time. She asked if I wanted to tune harps, so I did for about a month. At the time Sylvia was in Hawaii, and when she returned, she offered me a job. I accepted and began a wonderful life working at the Sylvia Woods Harp Center for almost 10 years. I learned so much working there. I was able to talk with the harp makers, visit their shops and was taught how they're built, how to take care of them, and how to do minor repairs. I also met a lot of well-known harpers and harpists and received a lot of tips and tricks from them. The amount of knowledge and information I received while working there was invaluable. I also began teaching those wanting to learn the Celtic style.
Harp Therapy
  It was at the Harp Center that I was introduced to Stella Benson and harp therapy. I took her program and became a Certified Music Practitioner. I learned how powerful and how healing music can be. I began working with people to help them reduce chronic pain, tension, anxiety. My favorite story is when I was doing an internship at Little Company of Mary hospital in Torrance. They would wheel patients into a large community room so I could play for them. My first day, there was one patient that glared at me from his bed. After about 15 minutes he closed his eyes and fell asleep. I found out that he was a very difficult person and there was only one nurse he would allow to work with him without creating an enormous fuss. They told me that for the next couple hours after I left he allowed any of the nurses to work with him. The second time I played at the hospital there was a long table in the middle of the room. He and I were at opposite ends of the table. When I began playing, he grabbed the table and began pulling himself closer to me. His reaction to the therapeutic music made a profound impression on me. I quickly found that as we help to heal others, we are also healing ourselves.
On Teaching
I incorporate a basic foundation of technique with theory, expression, improvisation, ergonomics to prevent injury, and reading music with fun. I want my students to have the foundation to be able to play whatever they choose, and to enjoy themselves while learning. I teach private and group lessons, and I also teach by Skype.
Like most self-employed musicians, I teach and play gigs. I also perform at many of the Celtic and Scottish festivals, and other folk-oriented venues. My life is centered around music, dance and teaching - all the things I love. After spending 20+ years in the corporate sector, I'm living my life-long dream working as a professional musician. It's funny how negative events can create positive outcomes that would have never happened without that negative event. It was the security of a regular paycheck (and my family's encouragement) to stay on a payroll, even though I was miserable and unhappy. And even though I got out of the corporate world, and was happy working at the Harp Center, I still wasn't completely living my dream. So when the recession hit and that regular pay check became less and less stable, I decided it was time to live that dream fully. Sylvia was very encouraging and supportive. It didn't go smoothly at first. In order to help pay the bills, I ended up spending two years working as a clairvoyant  in a "spiritual house" that wasn't so spiritual. (I've always been interested in the metaphysical realm and have clairvoyant 'ability.') When they kicked me out after my constantly confronting them about their unethical and illegal practices, that's when the music really started to take off. I just had to believe in myself, and being pushed off the cliff was forced to do just that.  
In addition to teaching, gigging and performing, I have a few other projects, just to keep things interesting.
Harp Glen: The past 4 years I've been the Music Director for Clan Currie's Harp Glen at the Ventura Seaside Highland Games - one of the largest Scottish Games in Southern California. All harp players are invited to join us. It's a fun way to learn about Scottish music, meet other harp players, and just have a good time. This year the Games are October 10 & 11.
Meditation: Over the past several years I've given many group harp meditations. Recently I've started on-line harp meditations, in the hopes of helping more people. In working at the hospitals, I began to realize how important it is that taking the time, even 5 minutes, to relax is very important. It helps us to reset, re-energize, think more clearly, and to lower blood pressure, all of which help us to lead a healthier, happier and longer life. Here are two of my YouTube videos.
Books & CD's: I have several meditation CD's. I also have one CD of Celtic music, and am currently working on a second. They can be found on my HarpMuse website and many of them on iTunes, Amazon and other on-line sources.

I've written 2 harp publications, and Sylvia sells them both.  (And they're part of this month's sale!) 
My Celtic Wedding Book was 10 years in the making. I did a lot of research and found Celtic music traditionally used for weddings, as well as Celtic music suitable for each part of the wedding ceremony. It also includes information on Celtic wedding customs. 
My first publication was inspired while working at the Harp Center. I was trying to explain to a customer why one would tune a harp to something other than the key of C, and how to use the levers. It is a 2-page sheet entitled Levers at a Glance.
Celtic Halloween Show: My pet project is an annual Celtic Halloween show. Did you know that many of our Halloween customs, like the Jack O'Lantern and trick or treating come from Ireland? The show, "Samhain: The Story of Halloween," tells these stories using traditional music, dance and song. There is an all-star cast of musicians, dancers and singers. And of course, the harp makes an appearance too! This year the show is October 24 in Los Angeles.

Teaching at Camp Kiya: For the past 3 years I've been teaching harp, as well as music theory and step dancing at a wonderful music camp in the Tehachapi mountains. Teaching in this environment is a lot of fun and very fulfilling. A lot of people are interested in the harp, so I bring several of my harps and teach a "Harp from Scratch" class for people that have never played the harp, as well as a separate class for intermediate to advanced harpers. At the end of camp we all perform, including those in the "From Scratch" class.   

Other Stuff:
On the non-harp side of things, I'm a member of a Scottish Country Dance Band (the only one in Southern California), called Speyside, playing keyboard backup.  
I also play harp, accordion, keyboards and percussive dance with the Scottish Fiddlers of Los Angeles.  
Sylvia Woods Harp Center
  (800) 272-4277 or (818) 956-1363

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promocodes15% off select sale items when you use the code word:

Our newsletter promo codes are only redeemable on-line, and can only be used for the products featured in the sale section of this newsletter. They are not valid for phone or e-mail orders. This month's code word is aedan and it is good for 15% off sheet music and PDFs listed in the Sale section above.
Here's how to get your newsletter discount at 
#1. Put the items you want to purchase in your cart. 
#2. On the page where you view the items in your cart, type this month's code word aedan in the "Promo Code" box, and click on "Enter Code."
The actual price of the featured sale products on this page will then automatically change to reflect the discount. You'll also see a note below the Promo Code box saying the name of the promo code you entered, and the percentage amount of the discount.  
REMEMBER:  you must enter the this month's code word aedan in the Promo Code box
and click "Enter Code" on your shopping cart page by
October 12 to get the discount!
If you forget, or if you have trouble adding it to your order,
email us immediately .   

offer expires at the end of the day on 10/12/2015.