Studying Harp at 
The Crane School of Music
with Dr. Jessica Suchy-Pilalis

I have been a professor here at The Crane School of Music since 1996. Crane is a substantial music school (around 500 music majors at the undergraduate and graduate levels) within a small liberal arts institution (4,500 students) that ranks as "very selective" in terms of admissions standards. To my delight, I have found that Crane is truly a musical community.  Students and faculty alike are here from morning 'till night and, even though we are a rather large music school, we are much more like a family.

Although Crane is large, I accept only a limited number of harp students and generally like to keep the harp program (that is, the majors) at two or three harpists total. This is because believe that a maturing harpist needs many opportunities to play in various types of ensembles on a regular basis.  Therefore, I accept just enough students so that each one has plentiful opportunities for performances of all types.  At many schools and conservatories that are comparable to Crane in size and number of ensembles, this ratio is much different: there are often between eight and sixteen harp students vying for large-ensemble experience.  By contrast, since only a small number of harpists are admitted to Crane, each is assured of building a solid orchestral/ensemble resumé, and of gaining the necessary experience and confidence for auditions. Our ensembles include: orchestra, chamber orchestra, opera orchestra, wind ensemble, early music ensemble, contemporary music ensemble, various bands and choruses. In addition, there are chamber music activities, a concerto contest (which one of my students won this past year) and the Crane Harp Ensemble (which includes non-majors). Also, there are "extra-curricular" opportunities to play for receptions, luncheons, etc.  I select a top student to perform as second harpist in The Orchestra of Northern New York--all told, the opportunities are plentiful!

Another difference from many comparable institutions: I am not an adjunct instructor of harp, but a full-time professor. This means that I am available for all sorts of extra needs, including advising and mentoring. For example, I am at school daily to arrange for additional performance opportunities, and I am available for mid-week assistance with music, etc.  I guide my students towards summer opportunities and keep them informed regarding appropriate competitions. I mentor each harpist carefully to make sure that a solid and balanced resume is being built. Part of this resume should include teaching experiences.  I try to arrange such opportunities as private harp students or teaching harp at the summer music camp, Crane Youth Music.

I look for harpists that are on their way to becoming both musicians and scholars. Because I am also a music theorist, I infuse my teaching with an analytical perspective. When a student auditions at Crane, I like to give a follow-up lesson later that day, if possible (there is no charge for this).  This is for two reasons: I want a prospective student to know how I approach teaching, and I learn much more about that student's potential than a 15-minute audition allows.  The teacher-student relationship is a very special one.  I am interested in discovering not only how far the student has come (the audition alone will tell me this), but where s/he can go, what his/her aspirations are and how I can best serve those aspirations. I believe that the extra time together that a lesson affords gives both teacher and student much better insight regarding the decisions that must be made!

Please explore the other harp-related pages connected to this site.  If you have any questions regarding how study at Crane can benefit your career, please feel free to e-mail me at or phone me at (315) 267-2447.  I welcome the chance to speak with you!

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