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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

SBCC’s sole student harpist is on an inspiring musical journey

Javier Delarosa
Santa Barbara City College’s new harp, acquired in November of 2017, is played by student harpist Ginger Brucker outside the Garvin Theater, in Santa Barbara. The $25,000 pedal harp will appear in a symphony on May 6 at the Garvin Theater.

At 7 years old, harpist Ginger Rose Brucker discovered her glissando dream after watching a harp performance outside of Anderson’s Bakery downtown. Walking through the lively upscale scene that encompasses the State and Anapamu intersection, Ginger approached the harpist and told her how much she loved the sound of the instrument.

After the musician invited the young girl to strum the strings, she fell in love.

“It was a miracle,” said Brucker. “It just showed up in my life instantly. It was like my calling.”

Now in her fourth year as an intermediate musician at Santa Barbara City College, the 18 year-old Santa Barbara native is currently the only student harpist in the department’s concert band and orchestra. She plays events ranging from weddings and farmers markets, to Montecito’s Coral Casino. She was also a member and past president of the American Harp Society’s Santa Barbara Chapter for four years.

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Aside from its substantial size, the complexity of lever and pedal harps are most apparent with their musical chromaticism and full body concentration. Practicing four hours a day with three required recidals per semester became a norm during Brucker’s intense five semesters in City College’s Applied Music program.

“She practically lives in the practice room,” said Lauren Rasmussen, a professional harpist of 31 years. “You never have to wonder where she is because she’s practicing with the harp.”

Margaret Hontos, a long time City College music professor and harpist of 10 years, said Brucker represents the very best of our musicians.

“She’s taken so many different styles of music and has incorporated them into her compositions which has really expanded her repertoire.”

Semesterly Music Now concerts have showcased these original efforts by Brucker and fellow aspiring musicians by blending various genres with modern recording techniques, leaving everyone with good knowledge on how to approach compositions and arrangements.

Plans for starting her own project, however, have fluctuated due to musicians’ natural intimidation of the harp’s delicate presence, or its “esoteric” aura as Rasmussen describes.

James Mooy, assistant professor and symphony conductor, said he values Brucker’s sponge-like ability to soak up so much music theory and described her relationship with Rasmussen as the “perfect combination of a great teacher and a great student.”

“It’s actually nicer not being the lone harpist,” admitted Rasmussen, who has been performing alongside Brucker for three out of her nine years in the City College symphony. “Harpists wear many hats and they’re all very creative.”

The symphony will be showcasing more of the school’s new $25,000 pedal harp on May 6 at the Garvin Theater, featuring a refreshing approach to Gustav Holst’s classic piece “The Planets.” Much like a rhythm and lead guitars’ communication, Mooy’s “wonderful problem” arranges the smooth tonal shifts between two harps and acts as another color to the orchestra’s musical canvas.

After City College, Brucker is determined to continue her musical journey with USC harp professor JoAnn Turovsky whose contributed to the critically acclaimed “Avatar,” “Star Wars” and “Frozen” soundtracks.

“Any commercial or documentary there’s always the glissandos — that’s our number one,” Brucker said, laughing. “They’re just such a magical and beautiful instrument.

“The workmanship going into harps is also very time consuming. You can make a hundred pianos and guitars and they’ll all be the same but harps are all different and they all have a different feeling.”


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