Rolling Out

Medgina Maitre overcomes stage fright to excel on the harp

She learned quickly after first playing the harp at the Philadelphia School for Girls
Medgina Maitre, with the harp, the instrument that "hooked" her. Photo credit: Courtesy of Medgina Maitre)

Medgina Maitre believes in pushing boundaries. She believes that in a constantly changing world, anything is possible. Having earned her bachelor of music degree from Temple University (2023) under the instruction of Elizabeth Hainen, principal harpist of The Philadelphia Orchestra, the young harpist is making big strides. Even more, as she returns to Temple to complete her master’s degree in music, focusing on harp performance.

She graduated from the Philadelphia High School for Girls in 2019 and, with no musical background, started playing the harp freshman year. The harp was her first instrument, and from the first note, she was “hooked” and considered music school. The second of five children, she comes from a single-parent household and is the first person in her family to attend college. She, her mother, and her younger brother came to the United States from Haiti when Maitre was 7. Her family has resided in Philadelphia since.

Throughout her career, Maitre has earned a myriad of scholarships to attend school and various programs pertaining to music. Most recently, she became the inaugural recipient of the Ann Hobson Pilot Award (2023) for her excellence in harp musicianship. She has participated in master classes provided by instructors like Susan McDonald, Mariko Anraku, Brandee Younger, Irina Zingg, and so many more. She has participated in intensive harp programs, including Curtis Harp days, Colorado Harp Colony, Summer Orchestra Institute (New England Conservatory), and NYU Harp Intensives.

Maitre has had the opportunity to perform with notable ensembles such as the Temple University Symphony Orchestra and the Center City Chamber Orchestra. In 2023, she earned the position of teaching artist with The Lyra Society, the program in which she began playing the harp. She is currently fulfilling that position at Central High School, teaching four freshmen to play the instrument. She is an avid musician, student, and teacher, and she continues to push through the world of music while demonstrating the utmost love and respect for her craft.

[Editor’s note: The following are written responses from a questionnaire.]

How did you get into making music?

I began playing the harp in my freshman year of high school with no musical background and terrible stage fright. It was my first instrument, and from the first note, I was hooked. It became so much more to me than just a hobby, and by the time I was a junior, I was considering music school. While the thought terrified me, I went for it. I now have a bachelor’s degree in music from Temple University and am pursuing my master’s.

Who are your musical influences?

My musical influences include Ann Hobson Pilot, Nina Simone, Brandee Younger, Elizabeth Steiner, Elizabeth Hainen, and Kendrick Lamar.

What has been your biggest career highlight so far?

My biggest career highlight so far is becoming the inaugural recipient of the Ann Hobson Pilot Award. Named after a pioneer, former principal harpist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, a seat she held for 40 years.

If you could play any venue in the world, what would it be?

If I could play in any venue in the world, I would love to play at Carnegie Hall.

Music for special occasions

What songs would you recommend for the following special occasions?

● Exercising
“Work Out”- J Cole
“Bubbly”- Young Thug
“Think”- Aretha Franklin

● Reading

“Suzzane”- Nina Simone
“Scheherazade”- Nikolai Rimsky- Korsakov
“Rhapsody In Blue”- George Gershwin

● Start my day
“I Left My Heart In San Francisco”- Tony Bennet
“Impossible”- Nat King Cole
“Angel”- Halle

● Weddings
“When I Fall In Love”- Nat King Cole
“I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You”- Elvis Presley/ Hailey Rheinhart
“Never Enough”- The Greatest Showman
“Misty”- Sara Vaughn

● House party
“FTCU”- Nicki Minaj
“Rush”- Arya Starr
“Bops”- Coi Leray

● Inspiration
“Dream In Color”- Regina Belle
“Get Back Up Again”- Trolls
“Serenade”- Parish Alvars

Best in the city – where’s the best place to eat?

Temple Teppanyaki — Japanese and Korean food truck

What’s your favorite drink?

Mango bubble tea

Finish the sentences:

The best way to move a crowd is …

… by knowing deeply the story you want to tell, and presenting the connection you have to it.

That odd song that I play to catch the crowd off guard is …

… “Chanson De La Nuit” by Carlos Salzedo. It is a piece that highlights some of the special effects we can achieve on the harp through great storytelling and beautiful motifs.

Practice/research is important because …

… while perfection doesn’t exist, it is through practice that improvements are made. Through research, we achieve greater levels of artistry and fulfillment.

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