AP NEWS

Grand Island harpist shares her love of the instrument

January 19, 2019

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (AP) — When harpist Lauren Meier performs at a wedding, she doesn’t play just the bridal march or Pachelbel’s “Canon in D.” She might also play Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.”

The harp is a versatile instrument, which is one of the reasons Meier loves it.

The Grand Island woman also plays the piano, but it’s obvious the harp is her preference.

“I think it’s the instrument I was meant to play,” she told the Grand Island Independent .

The harp has given her entry into all sorts of events. In addition to weddings, she has provided background music at numerous elegant occasions, including cocktail hours, galas, fundraising balls, receptions and garden parties in her native Texas, where attendees wear black ties and ball gowns. She once even performed at a wedding in a VIP room at the Texas Motor Speedway.

At those events, she’s usually surrounded by joy and celebration, which is why playing the harp is one of the best jobs around, she said.

Meier, who has lived in Grand Island less than a year, hasn’t played at a wedding in Nebraska.

“Not yet. But I have two booked,” said Meier, who appeared at a recent wedding expo to show prospective brides what she can do.

Don’t even ask her if she ever gets tired of the harp. She doesn’t.

Meier likes the fact that the instrument is “intricate and yet very simple.”

What really captivates her “about the harp is that it’s a soft sound, yet strong and elegant. The music is soothing and stress-free,” she said.

Sometimes Meier adds a level of sophistication to her neighborhood.

When it’s warm outside, she sometimes cracks open a window while she practices. The classy string music can be heard by people walking by.

Originally Lauren DeMattia, she grew up in a musical family in Richardson, Texas, which is a suburb of Dallas.

Her mother has been a violist all her life, and was anxious to introduce music to her children.

“It was mandatory in our house to start piano by the age of 5,” Meier said.

She took piano for five or six years. Around the age of eight or 10, she became interested in the harp.

One of her mother’s good friends had a lap harp, which she loaned to the family.

The family took big vacation trips each year. One summer, Meier sat in the back seat of the family van playing the lap harp as the family traveled. The animals at Yellowstone probably wondered why harp music was emanating from one of the family vans.

When she was 16, her parents bought her the big pedal harp she still uses today. It is a Venus concert grand.

When she was a student at Berkner High School, she made first chair in harp in the Texas all-state orchestra — quite an accomplishment, considering the size of Texas.

Meier credits the harp for earning her a full ride to Texas Christian University, where she played in the school’s symphony and wind symphony.

At TCU, she met her future husband, Steven, a native of Flower Mound, Texas. They were married in June 2007. He is now an orthodontist at Butler Orthodontics.

He did his residency in Colorado, which is where they lived before coming to Grand Island last year.

Like her mother before her, Meier has a musical family. Steven played trumpet in junior high and high school.

They have three girls. The oldest, Gabriella, is 10. Grace and Kate, 7, are identical twins.

All three girls are going to be strongly encouraged to stick with the harp, their mother said.

One thing that sounds great on a harp is a lullaby.

Did those lullabies help put her kids to sleep at night?

“Absolutely. How could it not? It even helped my husband take a nap on the couch,” she said.

In Texas and Colorado, Meier was a teacher for 10 years. She taught mainly second grade.

In addition to her children, she currently has two adult piano students.

How old is Meier? “I’m 29 plus seven,” she said, smiling.

To show that the boundaries of the harp are endless, Meier is beginning to explore Latin and jazz music.

A fine harp, by the way, appreciates in value. Meier’s parents paid $11,500 for their daughter’s harp, which was made in Chicago. It’s now worth $15,500.

Most of the strings, incidentally, are made of pig intestines.

Meier charges $350 to perform at a wedding.

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Information from: The Grand Island Independent, http://www.theindependent.com