Frequently Asked Questions

Weddings
How do you dress for wedding ceremonies?

I usually wear formal black, similar to what you see orchestral musicians wear on stage at orchestra concerts.

How many pieces should I choose for my wedding processional and recessional?

For most weddings, I suggest that you make 2-3 musical selections for your processional and one for your recessional. For the processional, choose a selection for the wedding party and for the bride’s entrance.  You may also select a song for the Seating of the Mothers if this is part of your ceremony. 

The recessional selection will last for the entire exit of the entire wedding party. I will then segue into the postlude music for the exiting guests. 

What is prelude and postlude music? Do I need it for my wedding?

Prelude and postlude music help set the tone and ambiance for the beginning and end of wedding ceremonies. I choose a light blend of classical music to play as the guests are entering (prelude) and exiting (postlude) the ceremony venue. I. When I begin the prelude music, the mood in a room is completely transformed, providing a beautiful backdrop for your guests to mingle and feel welcomed as they arrive at your event. When I get a signal from the wedding coordinator, or see that the bridal party has lined up and is ready, I then segue into the processional music!

Does Melissa play for the wedding rehearsal?

Over the years I have found that it is not necessary for me to be at the wedding rehearsal. It is my job to make the music fit whatever is going on in the moment, and that may or may not be what gets rehearsed!  

Do you need to know the exact length of the music needed in order to time each of the entrances?

I am able to assess and tailor each musical selection to the exact length needed based upon length of aisle and number of people processing. I can gracefully end a piece at the right moment and quickly move on to the next piece without disturbing the ambiance of the wedding. Although a cue from a wedding consultant is helpful, it is not necessary.

General Performance
Do you play cocktail hours and dinner receptions?

Yes, I often play at the cocktail hour and/or dinner reception following the ceremony.  I most often play a mix of light classical and classic pop standards. 

Can you play with other musicians?

Yes!  I love playing chamber music!  If you are looking for a specific musical combination (harp with violin, flute, cello, etc) I am happy to provide another musician for your events for an additional fee.

Can you play a specific piece for my event?

Yes! Do not be alarmed if you do not see your specific piece on the repertoire page.  My repertoire list is constantly evolving.  If you have a musical selection in mind, please contact me to see if it can be played on harp.  After the complimentary first piece, I charge a small fee for arranging and playing pieces not found in my repertoire due to the time and skill required.
 

Can I hear a sample of your music before hiring you?

Yes!   To hear sound clips of my playing, please visit the Listen page of this website and feel free to check my calendar for public performances!

Are you able to play outdoors?

Yes, I am able to play outdoor events, but with certain requirements.  The harp needs a flat, dry surface on which to stand (uncovered grass does not meet this requirement). Generally, the harp takes up an area about the size of 4’ X4’. At the first sign of inclement weather (ex. Precipitation of any form, extreme heat, extreme cold), I will have to move the harp indoors for the safety and protection of the instrument. It is highly recommended to plan an alternate location, in the event of rain or inclement weather. Due to the delicate nature of the instrument, I am unable to play outdoor events if the temperature is below 50ºF or above 90, 

How far in advance should I contact Melissa for my event?

I generally accept bookings up to 12 months in advance. Most weddings are booked 4 to 6 months in advance. Since my calendar fills up quickly, I strongly recommend that you contact me as soon as your event date is set, especially for weddings. To check my availability, please fill out the form on the Contact page.

How far do you travel?

I am based in the Tyson’s Corner Area and play for the entire Northern VA, MD and DC area as well as the surrounding area within a 1 hour drive. Locations outside of that radius will incur a travel fee.

Do you accept credit cards?

Yes. 

Are you experienced with official State Events?

Yes, I have performed for both domestic and international heads of state, foreign dignitaries and royalty at various Washington DC venues.  I am experienced with high profile events such as the Presidential Inauguration, State dinners and multinational meetings.  I am well versed in official protocol and etiquette and provide a stress free professional service to the event coordinators.

 

How do I book Melissa for my event?

Once you have your date secured, please contact me and provide the date, time, and location information of the event. After discussing the details, I will then e-mail you a contract to sign and return to with the required deposit. Your date is only secure in my calendar once a deposit and a signed contract are received

How loud is the harp? Do you need an amp?

The harp carries surprisingly well! For most occasions, the harp does not need amplification. The harp sound projects well and I can adjust my playing volume based on the venue space.  I can also play softly enough so that intimate gatherings are not over-powered by the sound of the harp.   Amplification: I am an acoustic musician and do not provide amplification. If you have concerns based on the anticipated volume level of guests and/or acoustic qualities of the setting, I am happy to set up the harp with amplification provided by a dj or the venue.

Keep in mind that: (1) the harp is capable of cutting through an entire symphony orchestra without being overpowering; (2) the natural sound of the instrument is compromised by amplification; (3) voices tend to get louder as music levels rise.

Do you require any special equipment at the venue?

I bring all my own equipment to events including a music stand and bench! 

How heavy is the harp and how do you transport it? 

The harp is roughly 80 pounds and stands 74” tall. Melissa has her own “harp car” and is fully self-sufficient when transporting her instrument. She also uses a harp cart/dolly to wheel around her instrument.

Do you take breaks during the event? If so, how long?

For wedding ceremonies, including the prelude and postlude, I do not take breaks.  For events lasting more than an hour, I take a 10 min break every hour, unless otherwise noted in the contract.  I can coordinate my breaks to coincide with a toast, speech, or other event that requires no music. 

Lessons
What are your credentials to teach?

I have a Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in Harp Performance from the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, where I also studied Harp Pedagogy (the art of teaching).   I am also a certified Suzuki Harp Instructor.

Will you travel to my house for lessons?

No.   All lessons are held at my home studio in the Tysons/Mclean/Falls Church area.

How young is too young to start lessons?  How old is too old for lessons?

This depends upon the individual child, but generally speaking between 5-10 is a good age to start.   Of course it’s never too late to start!!

Do I need to bring my harp to lessons?

No.  Students are welcome to use one of my studio instruments for lessons

Do I need a harp to practice on at home?

Yes.  I am happy to help you find a suitable instrument.   One of at least 34 strings with concert spacing and tension is recommended

Can I rent a harp from you?

I do have a few rental instruments available.   Check with me for availability.

What approach do you use for lessons?

I teach lessons in both the Suzuki and traditional approaches to lessons.  Which approach we use will depend upon the students’ age and previous musical experience.   Generally speaking, most younger students with no musical experience will do better with Suzuki.   If you are an older student who already reads music well and plays another instrument, the traditional approach is probably better.  I do supplement my Suzuki students with additional repertoire and I do have my traditional students work on some Suzuki repertoire.  When you get down to it, good teaching is good teaching no matter what the initial approach may be!

What technique/school of harp playing do you teach?

I teach the Salzedo technique of harp playing, which stresses musicality, technical proficiency, aesthetics and performance.  While there are many schools of harp playing and many people emphasize the differences, I have found in my teaching that there are much more similarities between them than differences.  I have successfully worked with students from all backgrounds.

I want my child to read music, will you teach them?

Absolutely.  When the student is ready, note reading is introduced.

When do students perform?

I organize 2 student recitals each year-Winter and Spring.  Students are also encouraged to perform at their schools, churches and communities.  Students also have the opportunity to take graded exams —I participate in the American String Teachers Association Certificate Advancement Program, and in the Royal Conservatory Music Development Program.

How do we pay for lessons?

Lessons are billed on a semester system.  Fall Semester is September-January.   Spring is February-June.   If students start mid semester, the cost is prorated.  Summer lessons are available by appointment.

Ready to book or have additional questions?

Contact me by email or phone or via my contact page.