by Len Lear
While many of us spent a part of our summer at the Jersey shore or the Pocono Mountains or maybe even a European capital (the really lucky ones), Oreland resident Mindy Cutcher spent several weeks doing something that the rest of could only dream of — touring the country while performing with world renowned pop/classical singer, Josh Groban.
Cutcher, mid-40-ish, has been teaching the harp to children and adults for over 20 years. She currently has about 18 students who range in age from 8 to 70. Also the principal harpist for the Pennsylvania Ballet for over 20 years, 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 even performed on The Tonight Show, and she is also a Certified Music Practitioner. She has provided one-on-one palliative care to the ill and dying in hospitals, homes and skilled nursing facilities such as Foulkeways and Rydal.
But how did the Josh Groban tour come about? “A lot of these types of tours hire orchestras from around the country,” she explained last week. “The contractor for this section of the country is from Philadelphia and hires professional musicians like myself who have experience playing shows and are available for all the concerts.”
The tour took Cutcher to seven venues, from Washington, D.C., to Boston and lasted for three weeks. The closest concert to Philly was in Camden, N.J.
It took place during late July and early August, which Mindy said is usually a slow time for her.
What was Josh Groban like? “Josh keeps to himself since it is a grueling tour,” she replied. “Most of the time he is on his tour bus or in a private dressing room. When we see him, it’s at rehearsals. He seems like a good guy, with a sense of humor and a good work ethic. His musicianship was consistent night after night.”
Did Mindy meet any other famous musicians during the tour? “Sarah McLachlan was the opening act. She was friendly and approachable, but stars don’t enjoy being ‘stalked.’ If a VIP happens to be next to you, you’ll talk to them, but otherwise you don’t seek them out.”
According to the local harpist, it was quite exciting “playing to sold-out crowds of 10,000 people.” What is the likelihood that there will be another opportunity to perform on a Josh Groban tour? “Josh will be starting rehearsals for a new musical on Broadway in the fall, so he probably won’t be touring anytime soon. Sure, I would do it again.”
Cutcher’s previous brush with fame took place in 1988 when she was on The Tonight Show while still a student at Oberlin Conservatory. “My teacher, Alice Chalifoux, was interviewed and brought her best students from Oberlin and The Cleveland Institute of Music,” Mindy told us in an earlier interview. (Ed. Note: Google Alice Chalifoux, and you can see the interview and performance on You Tube.) “Whoopi Goldberg was one of the other guests.” Mindy also played a concerto with world-famous violin soloist Joshua Bell while performing with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
Mindy also performs for important events in Philadelphia. She recently played at the Philadelphia Art Museum, for example, for a Trial Lawyers Association party — “800 people that included some Supreme Court justices.” She also played at the Mann Music Center last Sunday for the “Zelda” video game concert. (The music was played by a full orchestra with two harps.)
Who are Cutcher’s favorite composers? “My favorite composers are the ones who write well for the harp, write beautiful melodic lines and know how to showcase the instrument. This includes Tchaikovsky, Debussy, Faure and Saint Saens. ‘Cinderella’ by Prokofiev is one of my favorite ballets, and it is being performed next month at the Academy of Music by the Pennsylvania Ballet. I never get tired of the music, even after I have performed it numerous times … 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.”
In her spare time, when not teaching or playing music, Mindy enjoys skiing, ice skating, reading and baking. For more information, visit www.harpbyrequest.com.