CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Melody Rose Lindsay's talent on the harp has been recognized internationally. She will perform next month at the World Harp Congress in the Netherlands.
Young harp phenom has lots of pluck
Melody Lindsay has gained acclaim with her fleet-fingered talent
Melody Rose Lindsay earned her first 50 bucks at the age of 6, playing "Here Comes the Bride" at a wedding. Four years later she worked another wedding, multiplying her profits eightfold - $400 for 10 minutes' work.
The acclaim and the attention keep mounting for the 16-year-old 'Iolani School student, who creates a stir wherever she and her harp go.
At age 13 she performed on the public radio program "From the Top," merging the theme songs for "From the Top" and "Hawaii 5-0." "That really created some big waves in the audience," she said.
Accompanied by noted pianist Christopher O'Riley, host of the nationally broadcast show, Melody's principal piece was Handel's Harp Concerto. "That's the first time I ever played the most famous piece for harp for an audience other than my teacher and my dog."
Since then, Melody's audiences have continued to grow as she performs at area churches. Her last concert - at Central Union Church - drew a packed house, with music lovers even crowding the balcony.
Her talent has been recognized on an international level, as well.
In 2005 she traveled to Dublin, Ireland, to perform at the World Harp Congress. Being selected once was accomplishment enough, given that selections are based on worldwide competition, but Melody has been chosen twice. Next month she heads to Amsterdam, Netherlands, for the 2008 World Harp Congress.
"Many hundreds of harpists compete for the honor to perform at the Congress, so it's extremely competitive and a real honor to be chosen to perform," she said. She'll join harpists from around the globe, including Hungary, Italy, Serbia, Turkey and the Netherlands.
"I didn't really grasp what an honor it was until I went to Dublin and saw all the faces of the famous harpists that are on the CDs I have at home sitting in the audience, watching me play and applauding enthusiastically."
One of the greatest challenges Melody faces when traveling is have to leave her harp behind. "It is very costly and dangerous to ship your harp anywhere. Movers don't know how to move a 96-pound fragile instrument," she said.
"When I compete, I am at a distinct disadvantage because the other harpists usually drive their harps cross-country and compete on their own harps. ... I have to take what I can get. Sometimes what I get is pretty bad - rusty pegs, broken strings and warped soundboards. In Dublin I had to go seven days without any harp at all to practice on."
Melody's mother, Holly, an orchestral conductor, guided her daughter's choice of instrument - in a backhanded manner. "I decided on the harp because it's the one instrument my mom can't play," Melody said. "She can play almost every single orchestral instrument, including the marimba and the celeste. I thought she would not be able to criticize me or tell me how to play."
Holly still manages to deliver commentary and feedback on her daughter's playing, especially focusing on the length of practice times. "I really hate to practice, so I count the time it takes me to go to wash my hands, get a drink of water and feed the dog as part of my practice time. It drives her crazy."
Being the youngest student accepted into the preparatory harp program at Indiana University, Melody has already received offers for college scholarships in harp performance. "Everyone assumes I will be a harp major in college," she said.
But she has a broad range of interests. "I also received a scholarship to participate in an astronomy immersion camp on top of Mount Lemmon in Arizona," she added. "For right now I don't know anything about a future in harp except I'll always be a harpist as long as I can buy gut strings."