By: Rebecca Kirkpatrick
Each concert week we highlight a musician with a few fun facts our patrons may not have otherwise known. This week our Musician in the Spotlight is Alisa Coffey. You may have known that Alisa is the Principal Harpist for the ASO, but here are some facts you may not know:
When is your birthday?
What is your hometown?
Great Falls, Virginia
What instrument(s) can you play?
I play the harp. I can still play the piano, but not very skillfully.
What is your favorite food?
Breakfast food, maybe? Does coffee count?
Who is your favorite composer and why?
It's hard to pick just one. For the harp, I really love Henriette Renie for the great stories she tells with the instrument. Orchestrally, I love the colors and sounds of Ravel and Debussy. I love Mahler for his pathos, and Bach for his incredible skill and beauty.
What sparked your initial interest in music?
My mom was an elementary band teacher, my dad loved singing in the choir, and we had family friends that played the harp. Music was a part of our home while growing up, and something I always responded to and found solace in.
What other hidden talents do you have?
I've been making a lot of cheesecake recently, I can do that pretty well. Also, I'm constantly on the road with my instrument, so I've got pretty great road tripping skills.
In what store could you max out your credit card?
If you could have a super-power, what would it be?
Can I just be Wonder Woman? I'm a big fan.
What are three things still left on your bucket list?
Take ballet, travel the world, and learn French
What is your biggest pet peeve?
Do you have any pets?
No, but I love animals.
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
What is your favorite movie?
Roman Holiday. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Life is Beautiful, and Les Choristes are all runners-up.
How long have you played with the ASO?
This is my seventh season.
What book are you currently reading?
I'm currently reading Phantastes by George MacDonald.
Who inspires you?
I've been really lucky to study with some really excellent harpists along the way, and each of them have been a huge inspiration to me in so many ways. But I'm still learning and gathering inspiration from so many people around me who give of themselves whole-heartedly in excellence or in love.
What is your best childhood memory?
Simple things, like jumping in leaf piles or building blanket forts with my siblings.
Which four individuals, living or dead, would you most like to have dinner with and why?
Mary Katherine Ham - because I listen to her as a podcast personality and think she's the coolest, smartest, and most fun person. Her political ideas and personal story really resonate with me.
Emmanuel Ceyesson - He's a harpist I really respect and haven't met personally yet, and I've been really entertained and fascinated with his recent Instagram posts from the pit of the Metropolitan Opera.
G.K. Chesterton - He's shaped a lot of my religious thinking, I think he's brilliant and jolly, and I'd love to meet him.
Anthony Bourdain - because he would know all about the best food. I feel like he could converse and have a good time with anyone, and I may have a little bit of a crush on him.
Are you working on any projects outside of the ASO?
I'm continuing to grow my own personal harp studio, learning the Suzuki method, and searching for the best ways to inspire and educate young harpists. I'm also working with a wonderful group of harpists locally to create an Arkansas Chapter of the American Harp Society. We've created our governing body and have a few first events coming up this year. Right now, we're just organizing and bringing harpists together within the state. We should have a website soon. My own goals for the organization are to create some extra opportunities for young harpists, and bring in some special guest harpists to inspire and educate within the state.
This weekend, February 24-25, you'll perform in the ASO's fifth Masterworks concert, "The Planets." Tell us a little big about the challenges you face when performing this concert. What do you most looking forward to? Is there anything in particular we should be listening for?
I'm really excited about The Planets program coming up this weekend and I've heard a lot of audience members are as well. In the orchestra we're all excited because there will be so many of us and so many interesting instruments on stage (bass oboe, alto flute, celeste, extra percussion, etc.) to create the really beautiful colors and moods that Holst evokes for each of the planets. I'm excited because there will be two harps on stage. My good friend and colleague, Anna Cooney, will be joining me. The harp writing is really interesting in this piece. There's a lot of interplay between the parts, so sometimes it's like a really intertwined duet between the harps. In Mercury and Neptune specifically, each harp is set to a different key and the harps pass the different harmonies back and forth. Also on the program is R. Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra which also has two very involved harp parts.