Mindy Cutcher, of Oreland, is the principal harpist for the Pennsylvania Ballet and has played with numerous symphony orchestras. She has also been teaching the harp to children and adults for over 20 years. (Photo by Rebecca Barger)

Mindy Cutcher, of Oreland, is the principal harpist for the Pennsylvania Ballet and has played with numerous symphony orchestras. She has also been teaching the harp to children and adults for over 20 years. (Photo by Rebecca Barger)

by Len Lear

Mindy Crutcher, 46, who grew up in a small town near Baltimore, has been teaching the harp to children and adults for over 20 years. She currently has 15 private students in her home studio. Mindy lives in nearby Oreland with husband, Steve, also a musician (jazz saxophone) and two children, Jeff (piano and sax) and Jane (flute and harp).

Also the principal harpist for the Pennsylvania Ballet (she will be starting her 19th season with them this fall), Mindy is much in demand as a performer. She has played with the Baltimore, Delaware and St. Louis Symphony Orchestras and Philadelphia Chamber Orchestra. Mindy has performed on The Tonight Show and with such notable names as Josh Groban and Anne Hathaway.

Last week we put the following questions to Mindy:

I have read that a high school teacher told you that being a harpist for an orchestra is a “glamorous life?” Do you agree with that assessment?

I’m not sure if I would use the word “glamorous,” but there are a lot of fun parts to my job. I make beautiful music for a living, I make others happy and I meet celebrities in the process.

Is that why you chose the harp as opposed to another instrument? 

I chose the harp because it was such a mysterious thing to play. I was mesmerized by the sound and the look. I was hooked after my first lesson.

Is there anything about it that is not glamorous? 

Plenty! Loading and unloading the harp is always a chore, especially in center city. I am constantly replacing strings and tuning, too.

How many hours do you still practice a day?   

My practice time depends on what I have coming up. When I have a 50-page ballet to learn or I have a full-length recital, I am practicing 2-4 hours a day. I always need to practice to keep up my fingers. In the off-season, I am practicing only about an hour.

If you had your life to live over, would you still want a career playing the harp? If not, what would you pursue? 

Good question! Yes, I would still do music, but maybe I would also get a teaching degree as a “fall-back.”

What kinds of freelance jobs have you had in the past year? 

I always have corporate events (some I do every year for the same company), weddings, funerals and birthday parties. I played at a student’s Bat Mitzvah and a few times at Bazemore Gallery in Manayunk. What stands out in my mind are not the events but the concerts. I play in a duo called “Principally Harps!” and we perform at assisted living facilities and concert series. In June, we performed on the Candlelight Concert Series at Laurel Hill Mansion. The concert was sold out, and they had to turn people away! The audience was fantastic — very appreciative and knowledgeable about music. I also loved playing “Swan Lake” with the Pennsylvania Ballet in March. Also, last year, PBS showed a nationally aired special about the ballet’s 50th anniversary. It was great to be a part of such a historic event. There was a harp solo in one of the pieces, “Under the Sun.”

What things would you still like to accomplish on the proverbial “bucket list?” 

I guess you mean my musical bucket list? I would like to have some big venues for “Principally Harps!” such as a university or a tour beyond southeastern PA.

Your two children play musical instruments. Would you advise them to pursue musical careers as adults or not? 

I would support my kids in anything they’d like to do.

What hobbies do you have, if any? 

I like skiing, ice skating and my exercise classes. At home, I like baking, especially with chocolate, and reading.

What travel destinations have you liked the most and disliked the most? 

I have been everywhere on cruise ships. My least favorite was certain destinations in the Caribbean, especially those that just have shopping and beaches. It is difficult to pick a favorite destination. I loved the ports in the Mediterranean, Australia, Thailand, Vietnam, China and Japan. I have been to Japan the most since I played for the Palace Hotel in Tokyo, a resort hotel in Okinawa, and also toured with the Baltimore Symphony to several cities in Japan.

Why did you select Oreland to live in? 

My husband and I liked Springfield Township and wanted to be near Chestnut Hill and major highways.

What are your favorite pieces of music to play? 

My favorites are the ones on my CD, “Reverie” — music by Debussy, Faure and Saint-Saens.

What are your favorite pieces of music to listen to that do not involve the harp? 

I love all types of music from Billy Joel to jazz to opera. My favorite classical pieces that have no harp are probably Bach’s Brandenburg and various piano concertos.

For more information, visit www.harpbyrequest.com.

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