Grace Notes: Reflections on the Harp and Healing

by Tami Briggs, Therapeutic Harpist

Turning 30 was traumatic. I had recently moved to a new city. I had just broken up with a man I wanted to marry. My corporate mid-manager position was eliminated.  I wasn’t sure where to turn for comfort.

The apartment complex where I lived had a monthly newsletter and the month I turned 30, I noticed an advertisement that read “Harp for Hire, call Karen.”  Without a thought, I called her and said, “I have always wanted to play the harp.  Can I talk with you about this instrument?”

Even though the desire to play the harp appeared to come “out of the blue,” it really didn’t! My childhood piano teacher was also a harpist and when I was a little girl, she showed me her beautiful gold harp.  It was the first harp I had ever seen. It was so big and magnificent; it took my breath away!  She played an enchanting melody; I was left speechless.  She had planted the seed that took years to germinate.

I had never given myself a birthday gift but for the big 3-0, I knew I needed to take care of my heart with something special—the harp was perfect!

At the time I didn’t know it, but the harp was about “Healer, Heal Thyself.”  As I practiced, I personally felt its healing properties. When I began performing in public at weddings, dinner parties, holiday gatherings and church services, I watched people’s positive reactions.  I saw the harp magically create an environment that relaxed, soothed, and comforted listeners.  It was this experience of watching others’ reactions to the harp that motivated me to study at the International Harp Therapy Program (IHTP) in San Diego, CA.  This program is designed for participants to learn about the harp as a healing instrument in hospitals, hospices and nursing homes.

After completing the IHTP program, I mentioned my training to a hospital chaplain during a lunch conversation when she told me about two women who were in comas.  The chaplain got so excited and said, “Please play your harp for them. Let’s give it a try.” I explained I had one small problem – I pass out when I go into hospitals!  She said, “Don’t worry!  We will go to the intensive care unit and if you pass out, the wonderful nurses are sure to take good care of you!”

That very afternoon in the autumn of 1996, I experienced a miracle. I walked into the hospital and played for six patients and I did not pass out!  I had finally overcome my lifelong fear of hospitals. In fact, it was one of my peak life experiences! I know, at a deep level, healing happened for me and those I played for. This experience propelled me to return again and again to do this work.

As I played in the hospital and hospice settings, I began having many profound experiences.  I shared some of these with a dear friend and she said, “You need to jot some notes about these experiences, put them in a file, and someday, write a book about them.”

This is how Grace Notes came to be!

As I wrote several of the stories, I mentioned specific pieces of music and included a brief explanation of why a particular song was important. By adding a CD in the back of the book, the reader can learn experientially and “hear” the demonstrations.

It was this CD and others that I produced when I received this feedback, “This is the most relaxing, healing music I’ve ever heard in my life!”

Not long afterwards, my fans and friends began calling me the “Queen of Relaxation!”

While I take my work very seriously, I also love to laugh – at myself when I do crazy things and with others having fun!  You can judge for yourself if you think I’m worthy of the title, but most importantly, my passion is to educate by writing and help you relax/heal by recording music.  This is the intent of Grace Notes: Reflections on the Harp and Healing.