Harpist pulls strings for 25 yearsWritten by Michael Punsalan | | firstname.lastname@example.org
“A lot of people aren’t aware of the things the harp can do,” said Denise Grupp-Verbon, harpist of the music duo Tapestry. “They look at it like a classical instrument in an orchestra. They don’t see it in any other surrounding.”
Celebrating her 25th anniversary as a professional harpist, Denise hopes to continue changing the stereotype of harp music. Along with her husband and guitarist Michael Grupp-Verbon, the duo headlines the Opera House in Fayette on March 31.
“You get jaws dropping,” said Michael, describing Tapestry’s repertoire, which includes everything from jazz standards and Celtic folk to Led Zeppelin and Poison. “The way we justify ourselves is so that we don’t fit into one thing. We’re not just a bar band. We’re not just background noise. We don’t just record CDs. We do a little bit of everything.”
With a BGSU degree in harp performance and a Master’s from Northwestern, Denise’s professional career dates back to 1982 when she began performing six nights a week at the Boody House Restaurant, Downtown.
“I still have people come up to me and say, ‘We remember hearing you,’” said Denise, who spent the earlier portion of her career playing at Toledo establishments such as the Hotel Sofitel. She soon bridged out to weddings, corporate functions and personal concerts at the Toledo Museum of Art, Bowling Green’s “Lunch in the Park,” the Mitch Albom Show in Detroit and the national Somerset Folk Harp Festival. Tapestry also releases a new CD this summer to follow-up its 2005 album, “Variations.”
In 2001, Denise began a career as a professor at Owens Community College. This past October, she was the statewide recipient of the “Adjunct Teacher of the Year” award from the Ohio Association of Two-Year Colleges.
“It’s something I always wanted to do,” Denise said. “A couple of years ago, I developed music business classes. There’s now discussion of having a two-year business technology degree, which would be unique for the area.”
While educating future musicians, Denise takes pride in her diverse style.
“Some are proud of that harp stereotype, but it’s not what I want to do. You get a lot more work if you’re accessible. We had a gentleman come up to me on break one morning and said, ‘Wow, I didn’t expect the repertoire you’re playing. I didn’t fall asleep!’ He thought harp music was going to be boring, but it doesn’t have to be. To reach people and to make people feel good, you want to play something they recognize. They say, ‘I can’t believe you can play my favorite song on the harp!’ How cool is that?”
On the web go to www.queenofharps.com