The Harp Legacy Project

The Harp Legacy Project

My name is Shirley Meyer Blankenship (harpist/composer). In the 70's, I taught harp and music theory at the University of Illinois where I was the first woman to receive a Doctorate of Musical Arts Degree in composition. Currently I am the principal harpist with the Champaign-Urbana Symphony.

It has been all too often that I have encountered harp parts that were, at best, awkward and, at worst, impossible to perform. Major issues that are obstacles for composers involve the need for placing before pulling the strings, pedal markings, the creation of accessible structures, and the designing of notation that accurately depicts the interchanging use of the hands. After years of dealing with problematic parts, I initiated this project entitled The Harp Legacy Project. Via this venue, it is my mission to assist composers in the creation of notation that is comprehensible to harpists.

In order to accomplish this mission, I am offering my services as an editor/consultant to composers wishing to participate. In this capacity, I can contribute my skills and expertise to the benefit of both harpists and composers. Like the historical model of Les Six, the group of participating composers could generate a significant body of harp music for the present and next generations and significantly contribute to the development of viable harp notation.

All too frequently composers are unfamiliar with the intricacies of harp techniques and notation, consequently, harpists are often compelled to rewrite their parts to make them accessible. The services provided by the The Harp Legacy Project empower composers to create viable and idiomatic harp notation thereby enabling them to preserve the integrity of their musical intentions. Read our mission statement.

After fifty years of encountering harp scores that were, at best, awkward to play and at worst, impossible, composer/harpist Dr. Blankenship initiated The Harp Legacy Project in 2011. This project provides an opportunity for composers to engage in the process of creating scores that are inviting and comprehensible to harpists.

In addition to editing and consultation services, we offer tutorials in the form of “before and after” pages where it is possible to examine the originial scores with the edited versions along with explanatory commentary. Once a score has been edited, it will be donated to the Sousa Archives where Blankenship's legacy is being preserved. Participating in this project therefore makes your work historically significant as well as a guide for present and future composers of harp music.

Send a PDF file of your score via e-mail. If possible, just send the harp part. I will examine your score and assess a fee for my work.

Once the fee has been agreed upon, I will commence with the editing. You will receive my edit markings via an email attachment, fax, or snail mail. In order for my marks to be clear, it is sometimes necessary for me to obtain darker copies and then send a package to you via snail mail.

Many of the issues can be dealt with via email, but sometimes telephone conversations may be required. I will spend as much time with you as needed to produce a viable score.

At the end of the process, your score will be included in the Harp Legacy Project Collection to be donated to the Sousa Archives where my life and works are being preserved. On your score you will need to indicate my contribution as the editor/consultant in order for your composition to be accepted into the archives. The acknowledgment should read: Shirley Meyer Blankenship-harp editor/consultant.

If you send me a hard copy, it will be submitted to the University of Illinois Music Library as part of The Harp Legacy Project.

Payments can be made via Paypal or check.


How do I get started?
Send an email to Shirley Meyer Blankenship with a pdf of your score.

What are the benefits of participating in this project?
At the end you will have a "harpist friendly" harp part. This will increase the chances of your work being performed.
In the process, you will become more conscious of the issues involved in composing for this instrument thereby enhancing your compositional skills.
You will have contributed to the creation of viable harp notation that more closely resembles the actual execution by the harpist.
Your edited score will likely increase your chances for publication.
By allowing me to send our work to other composers, you will be assisting them in their endeavors to write competent and idiomatic harp scores. (Optional - by agreement only)
In order for your work to be included in the Harp Legacy Project Collection, which will be donated to the Sousa Archives:
Include my name, Shirley Meyer Blankenship, on the harp part as being the editor/consultant.
Send me a copy of the final version. At no extra expense, I will look this over for any possible needed adjustments.

How long does the process take?
The length of the process is highly dependent on how much time a composer devotes to the incorporation of the edit suggestions. The shortest piece was completed in three days, while the longest has been three months.