We had the good fortune of connecting with Emma Quinn and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Emma, other than deciding to work for yourself, what else do you think played a pivotal role in your story?
In deciding to stay in AZ, I have had the opportunity to grow roots and experiment with a variety of sounds that serve my community. If I hadn’t chosen to stay in AZ, I wouldn’t have found sound healing and these new avenues for sharing my instrument. As a result of my decision, I am now engaged, living with my partner, happily on the board of my local harp society chapter, and substitute harpist for Phoenix Symphony and a host of other orchestras in the valley.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
All things harp! I started performing and educating classmates about the instrument when I was 9. I love weddings. It’s an honor to be involved in such an intimate, joyful occasion. I have played the harp in weddings since I was 12 and I cannot imagine not including them as a part of my service. Orchestra concerts, corporate engagements, galas, operas, musicals, choirs, anniversaries, bachelorette parties, baby showers, baby welcoming parties, brunches, dinner parties, Valentines dinner parties, St. Patrick/Celtic themed dinner parties, memorial services, church/religious services, vow renewals… I have enjoyed a wide variety of wonderful gigs! I love playing with others most. Whether it’s in orchestra, chamber music, even harp ensembles, I am motivated to perform at my best! Wanting to play with others exposed me to sound healing. Sound healing led me towards actually serving my community in a way orchestras are yet to incorporate. I am most excited about the future of sound healing sessions (similar to Yoga Nidra classes). With amazing healers as colleagues, we offer combinations with a 6-foot pedal harp, an electric lever harp with effects, ancient gongs, and soothing bowls all to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, open the chakras, and help our community deeply relax. I am where I am today because of word of mouth and a ton of support! My family and friends have always believed and encouraged me. I am just this year getting to work with a developer on my website and building my social media accounts. I am grateful that the harp community is welcoming and warm, especially out here. There are a handful of us passing work (and interviews!) around. In California, I studied under the principal harpist of SF, Doug Rioth, and happily received steady orchestral work passed down from my connections with the SF Symphony and from my school. I worked hard in school and scholarships to make it out with a Master’s degree and no student loans! Was it challenging to choose to be a classically trained musician? Of course, but my mother said to go for it while I’m young and then I could always choose a more traditional path later. Luckily, I never needed a plan B! It took over 20,000 hours of practicing for me to have the opportunity to play and work with the confidence I have developed. The challenges I faced in school were mostly medical. I had to come to terms with Ulcerative Colitis and stress management. Today my challenges lie in patience and eating enough veggies.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I have lived in several states and Arizona really has a little of everything! Most of my “favorite spots” are campgrounds and hiking trails. When family visits, we had to hit up the must-see’s: the Canyon, Mogollon Rim, Emerald Cove, Sedona, definitely pass by Harding Spring on the way back..best water around! The valley has a healthy culture. AZ Opera, Ballet, Symphony (my preference). When in Phoenix, I just stay in touch with Shela Yu (@Shellshaker) who holds women’s circles, ecstatic dance shows (sometimes with live harp😉). All types of happenings are available if I want to socialize intentionally and make deep connections locally.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
If shouting is asked for, my mother (Meryl Tanenger) is most deserving of the loudest praise! Harps are costly upfront, and once I had one she ran me to countless rehearsals, concerts, weddings, competitions, camps… She went above and beyond to help me succeed and never let money or distance alter my path. With her support, I have always been well taken care of in mind, body and spirit. My harp teachers: Doug Rioth, Julie Smith Phillips, Joan Holland, Charlene Conner… Each of my teachers had a unique approach coming from the same heritage of study, called the Salzedo (by way of Chalifoux) technique. Honestly, all of my professors at Interlochen and SFCM were incredible teachers and mentors! I had a wonderful, personalized education. My public school band director, Neil Jenkins, was a huge help in my college decision-making and in offering to showcase the harp my freshman year. I was afforded the opportunity to play Gillingham’s Concertino for Four Percussion & Winds, and Grundman’s harp concerto, as well as Handel’s harp concerto (when the harp could fit on the truck)! In recent years, Performing Success by Dan Greene has been a helpful resource. I am listening to John Orten’s Books with my partner (Andrew McCormack) to better understand, not just my own faith and spirituality, but also for those I facilitate healing for in our community.