Blauw nurtures musical gifts

Jaclyn Vander Waal — Staff Writer

After a word of prayer, Dordt University senior Anna Blauw opened her senior harp recital Saturday with Tournier’s “Etude de Concert (Au Matin).”

The audience silently leaned into the music she played, and only rustling of programs could be heard in the still auditorium during her hourlong performance.

Anna Blauw harp recital

As a daughter of a music teacher, Blauw was surrounded by music from a young age. She began by learning the piano, and when she reached the sixth grade, she was encouraged to begin learning another instrument. At the suggestion of her father, she chose the harp.

Eleven and a half years later, Blauw is happy to share the culmination of all she has learned with friends, family and community members at the B.J. Haan Auditorium.

“It’s really exciting that I’ve gotten to this point,” said Blauw, a choral music K-12 education major with a music performance minor. “I’ve been planning this moment since I got here.”

Music adjunct professor Anna Vorhes, who has taught harp at Dordt for about 30 years, enjoys developing Blauw’s musicality.

“God gives us a gift,” Vorhes said. “It’s our job to nurture it.”

In their eight semesters together, Vorhes has worked to grow Blauw as a young woman and Christian in addition to a musician.

“It’s important to know how to live in the world while being God’s child first,” she said.

Vorhes recognized from the beginning that Blauw had incredible technical skills, so their time together primarily was spent developing Blauw’s sight-reading and ensemble skills.

Blauw describes her relationship with Vorhes as a partnership.

“She has a wealth of knowledge about what makes a good and varied recital,” Blauw said.

Together, they created the list of songs for Blauw’s senior recital. In addition to pedagogy and historical music works, they kept the audience in mind.

“Music is ultimately communication,” Vorhes said. “We look for pieces that connect to her and the audience.”

Blauw said she picked songs her audience would enjoy because she wanted them to feel included in her performance.

“I want the audience to walk away and be impacted as well as have an appreciation about a song they never heard of before,” she said. “I want the audience to feel like the performance was worth their time.”

When choosing a performance order, Blauw sat in front of a large whiteboard and listed every possible order she could think of. She had much to consider when deciding an order — the style of music, the energy to play it, key changes and more.

“I’m a chronic overthinker and processor,” Blauw said.

When she decided on a working order, she took a picture of the whiteboard and sent it to Vorhes to revise.

This last big performance at Dordt is both surreal and bittersweet to Blauw.

“It will change the dynamic of my last couple months here, definitely,” she said.

Blauw said she has learned a lot about perseverance and endurance by playing the harp. It always involves hard work, no matter how many recitals she prepares for.

“Every time, I expect it will be easier, but every recital is just so different,” she said.

Vorhes thinks preparing for a musical recital teaches many lessons. It teaches life-planning skills because Blauw must fit time to practice into her already busy schedule, which includes eight hours of student teaching every day followed by an hour or more of choir rehearsals three days a week. It also teaches about the relationship between the audience and performer.

“You learn how to share who you are through a piece of music without exposing your entire self,” Vorhes said.

Blauw loves the way people react each time she shows up to any performance with her harp. She especially loves the awed faces and comments children make.

“The shock factor is really fun,” she said. “I never get over that.”

She also enjoys explaining the harp pedals to bewildered observers. Pedals control sharps and flats on the harp, which means each accidental is played with the feet.

“It’s a crazy time,” Blauw said. “It looks beautiful in my hands, but my feet are going crazy while I try not to make too much noise.”

Vorhes is proud of all Bauw has accomplished during her four years at Dordt and is sad that their time working together is coming to an end.

After Dordt, Blauw hopes to continue playing the harp. She is considering getting her master’s degree in harp performance. From there, she would love to teach private harp lessons and perform at churches, for paid gigs and in ensembles.

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