Susan Allen’s Summer ‘Vacation’

Harpists in France

Summer students with Susan Allen, far right, and Ellie Choate, far left, in France.

After a busy school year ends, what does Susan Allen, associate dean for Academic Affairs and harp faculty in The Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts, do for fun in the summer?

She teaches—but in a different locale: From July 9-23, Allen’s traded in the Valencia heat for Artannes-Sur-Indre, a small town (pop. 2,000) in the Loire Valley of France.

Allen’s been conducting Summer Harp Courses around the world for the past dozen years through her own nonprofit educational institution. With enrollment limited to 10 students, classical, jazz, popular or improvisational private lessons and master classes are taught by either Allen or fellow harpist Ellie Choate.

Three CalArtians, Lars Panaro (Music BFA 12) Jillian Risigari-Gai, harp (Music MFA 12) and Jaclyn Urlik (Music BFA 14), joined other students from the U.S., Mexico, France and Norway for the summer seminar, which culminated in a performance on July 22.

“Our final concert was in Saché, home of Balzac, the writer, and the artist Alexander Calder,” notes Allen in an email interview. In a program for harp and guitar, Allen, Choate and the students performed works by Alfredo Rolando Ortiz, Bernard Andres Marcel Tournier and excerpts from Bela Bartok, George Rochberg and Gabriel Fauré.

France holds a special place for Allen, who has studied French since age 3 and harp since age 12. She writes: “Most of my teachers hailed from France: Marcel Grandjany, Bernard Zighera, and others were students of French harpists: Marcella DeCray and Catherine Gotthoffer (my CalArts teacher who studied with Mr. Grandjany as well).

“The language, the place, the country and the instrument have always belonged together for me.”

The final performance was held in this church in Saché, France.

The final performance was held in this church in Saché, France. | Image: Susie Allen



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