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Emily Jumes knew she wanted to play harp at age 4. Now she is spreading her love for the instrument to her own young students. Photo by Phil Houseal

View Emily Jumes improvising on the carol "I Wonder as I Wander" during a Dialogues and Dances Concert at the following link:


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Pulling Harp Strings

by Phil Houseal
Feb 13, 2013


It was a good thing Emily Jumes’ parents didn’t get better seats at a Fort Worth concert 14 years ago, or Emily might be playing tympani rather than harp.

When I first heard Emily strumming harp strings at one of the Dialogues & Dances performances, my immediate question was how–out of the dozens of instruments in a typical orchestra–she chose the harp.

“All I could see from where we were sitting was the harpist,” Emily explained. “I shocked my parents by saying I wanted to play the harp.”

She was 4 years old.

Emily’s mother, Julie, confirms the story.

“We sat in the nosebleed section, and she said she wanted to play harp,” Julie remembered.

So they took their daughter to a harp teacher, who offered discouraging news. At age 4, Emily’s arms weren’t long enough to reach the strings. Emily was not deterred, according to her mom. “She came to us every day after that, and asked us to measure her arms.”

Read about the 1927 Gold harp that her teacher gave Emily

Finally they found a harp small enough. They called the professor back, and soon young Emily was taking harp lessons. Her family lived in Vernon, Texas, and the lessons were at Midwestern University in Wichita Falls, a 2-hour weekly round trip.

Emily is the second of six children of Michael and Julie Jumes, all home-schooled and all musical, thanks in part to a grandmother who encouraged  all of her grandchildren to study an instrument. Mom–who calls herself the “harp hauler”–was thankful to be able to help.

“We enjoyed putting musical resources there for our kids,” she said.

Now, at age 18, Emily continues her studies with Laurie Buchanan, an accomplished professional harpist in San Antonio. She still has the lever harp she played at age five, plus two more harps: a Salvi Angelica Chamber harp, and the Lyon and Healy Semi Grand gold. The Lyon and Healy was given to Emily by a previous teacher, Dr. Charlotte Marrow, who played it at Juilliard and was an instructor at Schreiner University and player with the Symphony of the Hills. “She wanted her harp to be used in the Texas Hill Country,” Emily said. “I think it is fitting that this 1928 harp with such history is becoming a part of Fredericksburg's sound.”

Emily performs at weddings and concerts, and is teaching young students of her own. One of those is Liza Proch, who is able to play for her 92-year-old grandmother, “Nanny Rose.”

Playing for older folks is part of Emily’s mission as well. She often takes her harp to nursing homes, and one of her regular visits is to a 96-year-old neighbor. “I enjoy playing at nursing homes,” she said. “That is one of my favorite things, and people are so receptive there. I enjoy ministering to elderly people with the harp. I play, and they sing.”

Emily will graduate this May with an Associates Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from Liberty University, then start a combined music and education bachelors program in the fall through Valley City State University and Whitefield College.

Emily, who also studies piano, has big dreams. She hopes to start a local harp ensemble and grow a performance, instruction, and ministry studio here. That is an ambitious agenda to flow from one musical instrument. But, says Emily, the harp is very therapeutic.

“When you feel sad, you go play a sad song, and you feel better,” she said. “That is a really special thing.”

So special, even a 4-year-old could recognize it.