I have been playing autoharps for more than 20 years. I was first introduced to this amazing instrument by a Music Therapist who was working at the school at which I taught, a Special Education school for students with physical and intellectual disabilities, in Sydney. I asked her if I could keep the autoharp in my classroom and use it with the children on a daily basis (when she wasn’t using it in her sessions!). Having already been a guitarist, I quickly learned to play it, learned all the Music Therapy songs and sang them to the students every day. They soon learned the songs and several also learnt to play the autoharp. Because they could have the autoharp flat on the table or wheelchair tray and see the chord bars, it was easy to put coloured stickers on three chords to simplify their playing. A cake-bowl scraper served as a pick as they did not have the manual dexterity to use a conventional one!
In 2000 I met Evan Mathieson at the National Folk Festival at an Autoharp Workshop he and Lyn were running. He introduced me to the sublime joy of playing his custom-made autoharps, and after drinking several glasses of Evan’s delicious home-brew, I purchased one of his beautiful instruments. This soon propelled me to new heights of playing and song-writing, inspiring many of the songs on my debut CD, “Life’s Passages”, and helping secure me a place in the Graduate Diploma in Music Therapy course at UTS in 2001.
In late 2002 I qualified as a Registered Music Therapist and commenced work. To date, I continue to use Evan’s custom-made autoharp in my work with children, adults and now with elderly people, all of whom love the music produced with this angelic-sounding instrument. I also continue to use the same autoharp in my performances at folk music venues and in healing work and ceremonies with women’s spiritual groups.
Thank you Evan for being such an inspiring mentor and for introducing me to your beautifully made autoharps.