Lenoir City teen works to fund passion for harp
Most teenagers look forward to buying a car as their first, big-time purchase, but for 13-year-old Lenoir City resident Amy Carty, that milestone was superseded by something a bit less predictable and a lot less mobile; a full-sized, 47-string concert harp.
Amy is the youngest of Tim and Jackie Carty’s seven children and their only daughter. Carty began playing the piano at age 9, but decided after a year that she wanted to play the harp instead. She was referred to former American Harp Society President William Lovelace, who moved to East Tennessee in 1989 and now teaches at Knox Music Studios. Carty explained that taking lessons with Lovelace gave her the confidence to commit to studying the harp.
“He’s very encouraging and not a strict teacher,” Carty said. “I think if I had had a more strict teacher, then I wouldn’t have been so convinced about continuing with the harp, but since he was a more gentle teacher that led me to think ‘This is right for me.’ ”
The decision was not so straight-forward for Carty’s parents who were cautious. Amy’s father, Tim, explained that committing to such a large, expensive and uncommon instrument was a decision that they did not take lightly.
“We support each of our kids in the direction that they want to go,” he said. “When Amy talked about getting a harp, we decided that if we’re going to start that, we’re going to have to be pretty sure she’s interested, because it’s hard to back up from that.”
They decided to start by renting a smaller lever harp that many students use to learn the basics of harp playing. The idea was to let Amy test the waters before committing to purchasing a $15,000 concert harp, but the lever harp was quickly outpaced by Amy’s blossoming talent. Tim explained that when the mechanisms on Amy’s lever harp prevented her from developing her technique, they decided it was time to upgrade.
“When her skill level got to the point where she was limited, then we had to do something,” he said.
The Cartys decided that they would buy a full-sized harp for Amy on the condition that she earn the money to pay for a part of it afterward. For Amy, who is also involved in ballet, piano, voice lessons and chicken raising, that has been a tall order. Carty keeps a low profile online and does not have a Facebook page, but instead books her events through her email address, firstname.lastname@example.org.
That has not prevented her from frequently performing for large audiences. Carty has performed in worship services at Fellowship Church in Knoxville, various business openings and banquets, community events and as part of the annual nativity pageant at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum. She is also scheduled to perform with a harp ensemble at the Rossini Festival in April. Carty explained that her public performances were done for free, but that she has earned about $500 to pay for her harp from tips and donations, among other things.
For Carty, the harp is an investment in the future, one in which she believes it will play a major role. Her plan is to study harp in college and become a professional harpist and teacher. Though college is still years away, Carty is convinced that she has found her calling.
“There’s not really anything else I want to do,” she said. “Harp is something that interests me and that I have worked really hard to be able to do.”