Erie High sophomore starts music therapy harp business

4 min read

Jan. 4—Taryn Petruncola is looking to turn a class assignment and her musical skills into a business.

A 16-year-old sophomore at Erie High School, she’s taking a concurrent enrollment business class through Front Range Community College that required her to create a business plan. She’s also a harpist who started playing at just 6 years old. So she said it made sense to design a business that uses her musical skills.

As Taryn researched for the assignment, she found that professional harpists are relatively rare — and generally focus on playing at weddings and other business events. That led her to concentrate on the harp’s potential to be used for music therapy.

“It’s therapy for me when I’m having a rough day,” she said. “It’s really relaxing for me to play.”

With the assignment complete, she’s now wanting to turn her plan into an actual business, Soothing Strings, by offering her services to senior living homes, families with loved ones in hospice and hospitals. She’s previously played in nursing homes and at the funeral for a family member.

“I love helping people and playing,” Taryn said.

Her introduction to the harp was a picture in the music room at her elementary school.

“I would just stare at the harp picture,” she said. “My mom wanted me to try piano or violin. It took a lot of convincing.”

With her mother on board, she said the main challenge was finding a harp teacher. Taryn was living in Firestone when she started learning and ended up finding a high school student in Longmont willing to give her lessons. When her teacher graduated and left for college, she went about six months without studying before finding her current teacher in Boulder.

“Music teachers at most of the schools have no idea what they’re doing with a harp because they’ve never played it,” she said. “There are just not a whole lot of harpists around. You have to get private lessons.”

Performance opportunities are also more limited. While she played with her middle school orchestra, she was mostly on her own. By seventh grade, she was cobbling together her own parts for the school orchestra pieces out of the cello and piano parts. In high school, she has focused on playing outside of school.

Along with seminars with other high school harpists run by her private teacher, she said, the state’s harpists get together every couple of years to perform a concert. Even though she missed the one this year to attend homecoming, she’s hoping to perform next time.

“It’s cool,” she said. “It sounds gorgeous.”

Finding a harp to play was easier, at least at first.

Taryn learned on the smaller, simpler lever harp, renting them through the years. When she was 14 and ready to move to the more-advanced, full-size harp pedal — not typically available to rent — her family bought her current instrument.

At just 5 feet tall, she got a medium-sized “semi-grand” harp pedal with a “really big sound board” to give her good volume and projection. Still, it’s heavy at around 80 pounds and requires wheels to move. Plus, she said, it’s very sensitive to both heat and cold.

“They’re like little babies,” she said.

She said it’s not hard to learn to play, noting, “whatever you play on a harp sounds really good.” But becoming really good, she said, is much more difficult.

“To play complex songs, there are a lot of components to do all at once,” Taryn said. “And on a harp, you have 46 strings to tune.”

While she doesn’t dream of joining an orchestra as a professional musician, she also can’t imagine not playing, for herself or as a side business.

“I see my harp, and I have to play,” she said. “I just love it so much.”

For more information about her business, email her at [email protected].

You May Also Like

More From Author

+ There are no comments

Add yours