Thursday, June 16th, 2022
Chicago has many talented harpists with a variety of skill sets. We will be featuring several of them in our Thursday evening concert!
LeAnne Bennion started playing the harp at the age of nine when her grandmother introduced her to the instrument. She earned a Master of Music degree from Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts and a Bachelor of Music in Harp Performance from the University of Utah. At Roosevelt she studied with Marguerite Lynn Williams, principal harpist of The Lyric Opera of Chicago. Her past teachers include Louise Vickerman, principal harpist of the Utah Symphony, Dr. Carrol McLaughlin, University of Arizona and Dr. Cathy Clayton, University of Utah. She has recently studied with Maria Luisa Rayan.
LeAnne has created a performing career in Chicago by working with local orchestras as well as her new music ensemble, The Nightingale Ensemble. As a founding member of the ensemble, she has premiered multiple works by local and international composers. In order to further expand the harp repertoire, she frequently works one on one with composers advising them on writing for the harp.
As a freelance musician in Chicago, LeAnne has played for events of all kinds. She regularly performs for teatime at the downtown Drake Hotel, Palmer House Hotel, the Langham Hotel and The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. She recently appeared in a national commercial produced by The Onion Network and on an episode of the television show Empire.
LeAnne is a full-time harp teacher with studios at Lake Forest College, The Chicago School of Music, Stevenson High School and her home.
In addition to her harp accomplishments, LeAnne’s intense dedication to her sourdough starter won her bread first prize at the Chicago’s Best Baker competition.
Chicago-based harpist Lauren Hayes is an avid orchestral, chamber, and solo musician,
distinguishing herself in the areas of contemporary music, ensemble performance, and harp
instruction. She performs frequently with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Minnesota Orchestra,
Joffrey Ballet Orchestra, the Chicago Philharmonic, on Chicago Symphony’s MusicNow series,
and the Chicago Composers Orchestra. She is an associate member of the Civic Orchestra of
Chicago and guest harpist with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra (Swedish National
Orchestra). Most recently, she appeared at Carnegie Hall as part of New York’s first
Afrofuturism Festival, performing and participating in a workshop with the Burnt Sugar
Arkestra. Lauren was a Harp Fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center and is an Artist in
Residence at the Caroga Lake Music Festival (NY).
In addition to performing, she maintains a large private teaching studio in Chicago, has been an
instructor for the Harp Column Academy’s Summer Camp and served as a teaching artist for the Urban Youth Harp Ensemble in Atlanta, GA. Lauren volunteers frequently with the non-profit
Sharing Notes. When she is not playing the harp, Lauren loves spending time with her dog, Mia,
traveling, and finding the best new coffee spots!
Hayes holds a PD in Orchestral Studies from Roosevelt University (2019), an MA in Harp with
Distinction from the Royal Academy of Music (2016), and a BM in Harp Performance from the
University of Arizona (2014).
As a harpist performing with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Lyric Opera of Chicago, Eleanor Kirk is an experienced orchestral, chamber, and solo musician. She serves as the Principal Harpist with the Illinois Symphony Orchestra, and as Harp Faculty at The People’s Music School and Young Artists Harp Seminar. Season highlights from the past year include guest principal appearances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Fort Wayne Philharmonic, the Ring Cycle at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and a Midwest tour with the Chicago Harp Quartet.
In addition to numerous awards, she received honors at the Luminarts Competition in 2017 and the Musicians Club of Women Competition in 2019. Kirk has played in major venues such as Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, Weill Recital Hall in Carnegie Hall, the Civic Opera House, and Symphony Center in Chicago.
Kirk studied with New York Philharmonic harpist June Han, Lyric Opera of Chicago principal harpist Lynn Williams, and Chicago Symphony Orchestra principal harpist Sarah Bullen. She holds degrees from Columbia University, and Chicago College of Performing Arts, and currently serves as the Principal Harpist with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago.
Kirk is a founding member of 5th Wave Collective, a Chicago based classical music ensemble dedicated to the performance and promotion of music by women composers, where she performs and works as development director. In addition to balancing varied performances and administrative roles, Kirk enjoys teaching in her private studio, and serving as Vice President of the Chicago Chapter of the American Harp Society.
Janelle Lake has been teaching hundreds of people to play the harp since she started teaching while at Northwestern University in 2005. Since then, she has taught at the Sherwood School of Music at Columbia College, the University of Chicago, Loyola University, and the Music Connection in Orland Park. Her home harp studio on the south side of Chicago currently has 20 students ages 4-89. As a registered Suzuki instructor, Mrs. Lake prioritizes clear assignments and goals for each lesson. Her students have won awards through the Royal Conservatory of Music(ABRSM), the Chicago Federation of Musicians, and competitions such as The Greater Chicago Harp Competition. In addition to teaching harp, Janelle Lake performs regularly with the Elmhurst and Southwest Symphony Orchestras, performs solo and in small ensembles for social functions, and is the mother of two young girls.
Even before she entered this world, Julie Spring was destined for the harp. Her mother was quoted as saying that her children would learn to play the harp when Julie was still in the womb! So it was that Julie and her siblings all took lessons while growing up outside Chicago. Eventually, Julie’s path took her to Eastman School of Music and further to Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts, where she earned her Master’s Degree in Orchestral Studies.
Since that time, Julie has lived in numerous places and had the joy of playing with some of the world’s most prestigious orchestras, including holding the title of Principal Harp with the Toronto and Hartford Symphony Orchestras as well as the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. While Julie cherishes the opportunities to play with these orchestras and playing as a guest with the Chicago Symphony, Lyric Opera Orchestra of Chicago and Grant Park Symphony, she finds a persistent calling to teach.
Outside of the standard private lesson studio in her home, Julie has taught as a sabbatical replacement at her alma mater, Eastman School of Music, as well as Harp faculty at Gordon College, Boston, and currently, Concordia University Chicago and College of DuPage. While her own, grueling practice hours at the harp are treasured, she takes immense pride in the growth and accomplishments of her students.
In 2016, through common musical connections, she met and joined the Chicago Harp Quartet, “the quartet that put harp quartets on the map!” (Harp Column, 2018). With CHQ, Julie has toured domestically and internationally, and released “Dance Sketches,” the quartet’s sophomore album with 5 world premier works for harp quartet.
Julie’s harp-roadie-in-training is her son, Dax, who turned 9 this year. You can find them playing a duet on piano or harp just as easily as they discuss Transformers or Legos. Julie will warn you that her son’s blonde curls are deceptively angelic, though he is always willing to help move a bench or stand for musicians in need!