Guatemala Harp Teaching Project

The Guatemalan Harp Teaching Project by Patrice Fisher
The Guatemalan Harp Teaching Project is a harp teaching program for students in Guatemala City, supported by the New Orleans Chapter of the American Harp Society. Thousands of dollars of harp supplies have been donated by harpists all over the world, since 2003. Seven harps have been donated and eight U.S., Dutch and Canadian harpists have volunteered their time to go to Guatemala and help these students to succeed. More than 100 harp students in Guatemala have been helped by this program. For more information, see their Face book page at Arpas En Armonia

By Patrice Fisher

It was priceless to see the look of wonder on the face of Brendy Boj Escalante. She had just learned, for the first time, to slide her thumb down to play a five-note passage on the harp. It was especially important to me, because I know that I am making a difference in the world.

The plane was full of missionaries, when we arrived in Guatemala this spring. I felt like a missionary too, a missionary of the harp.

 We started the Arpas En Armonia program thirteen years ago at El Sitio Cultural Center in the beautiful colonial town of Antigua, Guatemala. We had 2 Paraguayan style harps and 18 students. Now, our Guatemalan friends have built over 50 harps and 3 Guatemalan teachers, guided by my first student, Brendy Boj Escalante, have taught more than 100 students. For a moment, I ask myself, “Why am I spending my vacation putting levers on the two new harps that have been built since the last time I was here six months ago?” Then I remember the look of wonder in Brendy’s eyes and I smile. Brendy is now the teacher for the harp students who come to the Guatemala Municpal Cultural Center each Saturday morning. The Guatemala Harp Teaching Program, known in Guatemala as Arpas En Armonia, now takes place at the Municipal Cultural Center in Guatemala City. We are also working to train harp teachers, like Mariabelem Garcia Lederer, who are sharing their knowledge at the Conservatorio Nacional German Alcantara.

My students hug me and kiss me on the cheek each time we meet. I can see the progress they have made in the last two years. Now I know they will have someone to tell them “It’s easier to play that passage, if you slide your thumb from E to D and then play fingers 2, 3 and 4.”

I gave my first harp workshop in Guatemala in 2003, as a kind of lifeline for the three  students who were left without a teacher, when Guatemalan harpist, Floridalma Robles, died. in 2001. I had a special affinity for the students, because I remember, when I was 20, my first harp teacher died. In case you ever need to know, the Spanish word for finger slide is “resbalar.”

...Patrice Fisher, harpist and teacher in New Orleans, La.


Guatemala Harp Teaching Project by Ginna Paredes

The beautiful weather was my first impression of Guatemala; sun and flowers with a morning breeze. My second impression was of the many musicians who had come to Antigua to perform. New people arrived daily with new music and every night we rehearsed. It was a treat sharing the music and the experience.

Terry Rubin, an expatriate musician living in Guatemala, took to me to San Marco, a city on Lake Atitlan for more classes. We sang the entire five hour trip, shared stories about the music and musicians of Guatemala. I stayed overnight in Terry’s incredible tree house. The next morning she took me to the lake shore, where I caught a boat to San Lucas Toliman.

A guide was waiting for me at the dock. He took me to the church where I was to teach.

I began playing in a plaza in front of a church, while I waited for my group of students. Within 10 minutes, I had a crowd of possibly 30 children gathered around, all wanting to learn to play the harp. I began with five music students, teaching string changing and tuning. Before I finished the classes, the group had doubled in size.

There is an appreciation for music that the children seem to be born with. They quickly gather at the sound of music and they quickly understand fairly sophisticated musical concepts. The children also have a well-developed sense of sharing and working together.

There were not enough harps for all of the students to play at the same time. Students would play along on other instruments while waiting for their turn and in many cases, they transferred local songs to the harp as soon as they sat down. In one instance, I had three students all playing individual parts of a folk song, on the same harp, at the same time. It was the first time I had heard three people playing at once, on one instrument.

Overall, I enjoyed the teaching experience and hope to do it again.

...Ginna Paredes, harpist and teacher in Baton Rouge, La.


Guatemala Harp Teaching Project by Megan Sesma

El Sitio is a well organized center for students to receive free harp lessons.  I also became acquainted with Brendy Escalante who is enthusiastically working with the students at El Sitio Cultural Center every week.  During the week Brendy and I had sessions on how to teach reading music, and technique, etc. The students at El Sitio were bright, eager, focused and thoroughly enjoyed their time at the harp.  The students treasured their lesson time and understand the privilege that their half hour beholds.    I brought many binders of music and stands, and enjoyed helping each group of students learn to read music for the first time. 

Their faces lit up as the many months of performing songs from memory were complemented by the ability to read music.

Many times, I dream of the breathtaking beauty of Guatemala, the students and all that I have learned from them.  In general, the harp students in Guatemala are reaching out for guidance.  I have been given and earned
infinite opportunities and privileges in my lifetime.  The Guatemala Harp Project is one opportunity to help others grow, and make the dream of sharing music a reality.

...Megan Sesma, US Coast Guard, Principal Harp

The Honduras Harp Project.

This is a short note on a harp initiative: the Tegucigalpa harp school.

Harp is not a well-known instrument in Honduras and cannot be studied at any music school. The national symphonic orchestra uses piano or guitar to fill the harp parts. I have been living for about ten years in Honduras,
doing social work through local development projects. I have also been playing Celtic, Latin and Classical harp with groups, orchestras and operas.

Often people ask me if I would give harp lessons, but the problem is the lack of instruments for them to practice on. So I contacted John Lozier of the Harping for
Harmony Foundation, who provided me with the contact with Patrice Fisher. Patrice luckily had already planned a trip to Honduras to make an Ecos Latinos documentary of this beautiful and diverse country together with her husband, Carlos Valladares. We became friends immediately and her support and enthusiasm stimulated me to start a small harp school in Tegucigalpa the capital of Honduras. We visited a local
guitar maker with harp plans from Musicmakers and hardware from Blevins harps.

He is really willing to try and phones me every other day to come and look at his is very hard to build a harp with just a picture and some pieces of paper if you don't really know the instrument. Today, he was almost putting the back part as soundboard and cut a soundboard of wood one inch thick. In the meantime, one message posted through internet has led to
five students  signing up for the harp classes that I'll start in early March, with the help of ARTE ACCION, our artist organization. The national music academy is also interested and has offered me a space to teach...I just need them to get the instruments, because the guitar maker is not going to be able to quickly produce high quality harps. But the start has been made and I hope to be able to report on real facts and progress next time. In the meantime, any help is welcome,

We need strings, hardware, harps, anything to be able to give Honduran musicians the opportunity to study and play harp.

...Lis Joosten, harpist in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.


It took a host of friends and sponsors to keep this project going, but the first and foremost is my husband, Carlos Valladares, who showed me the beauty of his country 28 years ago. I also owe special thanks to:

to Lorena Rojas and Ricardo Rodriguez at Centro Cultural Municipalidad in Guatemala City, for

Supporting the harp classes in Guatemala City and showcasing the students every year at Festival del Centro Historico


to Pascu, Enrique, Luis, Thelma and Julio at El Sitio for helping to organize the workshops and giving them a home;

to Brendy Boj Escalante, for teaching harp every week, with or without payment;


to Maria Belem Garcia Lederer for reviving the harp teaching program at Conservatorio Nacional German Alcantara

to Rigoberto, Abraham and Gino in San Lucas Toliman, for building and transporting the harps;

to Byron, Terry, Quique, Marta, Lazaro, Lenin, Paulo, Ginna and Colibri, for performing for free to help raise money for the project;

to Jerry at Musicmakers for his great book on Harp Building and his wonderful harp building plans;

to Dwight Blevins at Blevins Harps, for his patient advice and discounts on harps and harp building hardware;

to TACA Airlines for giving airfare discounts and free tickets to the traveling harp teachers, who have worked with the program.

to John at the Harping for Harmony Foundation, for his financial support and contacts in the harp world.

and to the following harpists, who have donated time and supplies to keep us going:


Charlotte Rowe

Anna Peterson

John Lozier & Harping for Harmony Foundation

Vixen Harps

Deb Knodel


Molly Wiggins

Pat Lynch Hayes

Ivonne & Filipa Douma

Candy Foster

Megan Sesma

Julie Arreguin

Fernando Guerrero, Venezuela

Kathy De Angelo and the Somerset Harp Festival

and many more

Strings and Hardware:

Dusty Strings Harps

Vermont Strings

Musicmakers Harp Kits

Rees Harps

Camac Harps

Bette Vidrine

Catherine Anderson

Ginna Paredes

Odarka Stockert

Patricia Wooster and the World Harp Congress

Kathy De Angelo and the Somerset Harp Festival
and many more


Ginna Paredes, Baton Rouge

Lis Joosten in Honduras

Eala Clarke, New Jersey

Megan Sesma, Connecticut

Shawn Drain, Pennsylvania

Dr. Alfredo Rolando Ortiz,

Brandee Younger, New York

Music Stands and Supplies:

Megan Sesma

Computer Programs

Fernando Guerrero, Venezuela

Tee Shirt sales & Monetary Donations:

Sandy Erickson

Paul and Maeve Lawless

Ivonne Douma

Brenda Melara
and many more

If you can help, please write us. You can make tax deductible contributions to the New Orleans Chapter of the American Harp Society at 921 Stewart Ct., New Orleans, LA 70119.

Organizer and beneficiary

Nola Chapter Ahs
New Orleans, LA
New Orleans Chapter, American Harp Society

Your easy, powerful, and trusted home for help

  • Easy

    Donate quickly and easily.

  • Powerful

    Send help right to the people and causes you care about.

  • Trusted

    Your donation is protected by the  GoFundMe Giving Guarantee.