Frequently Asked Questions

On the Music and Musician

How does choosing live music benefit my event?
Live music creates instant ambiance, setting the tone for celebration and festivity. Live music tailors itself to the flow of you event, while recorded music cannot have that flexibility. Live music is a treat for your guests; guests often approach me after events to say how much the music moved them and are curious about the instrument and repertoire. All in all, live music sets your event apart from everyday life, creating a special atmosphere.

Where have you played?
Click here for a partial list of venues.

What types of events do you play?
Since the harp and piano are such universally enjoyed and accepted instruments, I have the privilege of playing very diverse events - please see Stories & Kudos.

Will I be able to hear the harp clearly?
Yes, the harp projects beautifully, especially my custom designed Cithara Nova model. For non-ceremony events of over 100 people, I provide a top of the line battery powered amplifier at no extra cost. This can amplify the harp to an audience of about 300. For ceremonies, where the guests are usually quiet, there is no limit in terms of amplification.

Are you experienced in accompanying?
Yes, I took many semesters of accompanying professional singers and musicians while working on my master’s degree, plus I have participated in numerous ensemble projects, both past and present (see “What are your other musical activities?” below). I am also used to working with amateur musicians (for example, friends asked to sing during weddings), and my many years of teaching music helps them feel comfortable and confident. Finally, I can recommend flutists, guitarists, vocalists, and other musicians that I have previously worked with if you would like an ensemble for your event.

What makes you different from other wedding and event harpists and pianists?
Music has been my calling since my first piano lesson at age 7. I understand the power and magic of music, and love sharing it to highlight your event. I hold a master’s degree in music, rare amongst wedding and event musicians, and hold myself to the highest standards of performance, presentation, and professionalism. I have honed my performance skills to a high degree but do not like to be the center of attention, so bringing my music to highlight others’ special events is a perfect fit for me; I consider it an honor to be part of such special moments in my clients’ lives. I am often hired by other musicians who point out that my level of musicianship was key in their decision to hire me, and officiants, coordinators and other weddings professionals frequently comment on my superior performance and presentation, following through with word of mouth recommendations. I also provide a free CD to your videographer to ensure the best possible quality sound for your memories.

Can you tell me about your repertoire?
My repertoire is unique amongst event musicians, having studied both classical and ethnic (Celtic and Mediterranean/Jewish) music to professional performance level with the finest teachers. Having taught music myself for twelve years, I collected a repertoire of popular songs and other favorites, as well as a deep understanding of what music really moves people.

What else can you tell me that I might not have considered yet?
As a full time harpist and pianist I have experienced all manner of unexpected incidents during events, and can handle them with humor and grace. I love to share the knowledge and insider tips I have gained from having played hundreds of events. This is not a part-time job for me: I spend a great deal of time with my clients prior to each event, with unlimited calls/emails, and a long consultation if desired. You will never feel like a number to me; I aim to help make every event special and unique, one that people will remember. I understand that most people don’t hire harpists or pianists every day, and will take time to help you understand the instruments and proceedings, treating you with respect and friendliness. To that end, I invite you to contact my previous clients to discover their experience of working with me – often I find myself working for a circle of friends and have many repeat clients.

So that I can provide the best quality music to my clients, I do not try be all things to all people. I specialize in classical, Celtic, Mediterranean/Jewish and some popular music, as well as some tango piano – if you have are looking for music outside of my repertoire, I am happy to refer you to the appropriate musician. I am sometimes asked if I play keyboard - I do have a professional grade keyboard which sounds great on recordings, but do not use it for live events - it simply does not have the magic of an acoustic instrument.

On Logistics

When do you arrive, what do you need, and how long does it take to set up?
I arrive 30 minutes prior to my scheduled start time, and a full hour before a wedding ceremony is scheduled to start. I have no requirements besides shade and clement weather. It takes about 10 minutes to set up the harp; my harp is designed to stay exceptionally in tune, so all I need is a quick check before starting to play, and my amplification system is self-contained. My husband assists on weekend events for an even more streamlined set-up.

What if we run overtime?
No problem - I have a provision in all contracts that I will go into overtime (with client approval) if necessary and I if do not have another engagement immediately following. In order to avoid going into overtime for weddings, in my experience over 90% of ceremonies start late, so I budget 1.5 hours per ceremony, which usually turns out to be just enough time. Additionally, I provide 15 minutes of postlude music after the wedding – so the ceremony can run into that cushion if things are running very far behind schedule.

What if you are not able to make the event?
This is my full time profession, so I will do everything humanly possible to be there. If something catastrophic occurs and I am unable to attend, I have a large network of other harpists/pianists to call upon, all experienced in weddings and events. Further, my husband also has my referrals list, so would be able to give further assistance in finding you a replacement harpist/pianist. Nothing remotely like this has ever happened; I bring this up to ease your mind.

What is your travel range?
During April-December, my travel range is approximately 50 miles from Berkeley, more for weekday events. For January-March my travel range is 70 miles from Berkeley. A travel fee applies to events further than 25 miles from Berkeley.

Wedding specific questions:

Do you need to attend the wedding rehearsal?
To be honest, I believe it is an unnecessary expense for you to have me at the rehearsal, especially since I provide a complementary sample CD that you are free to rehearse with. Further, I am diligent about recording all details of your ceremony during our consultation, and create a worksheet that I can refer to at any time. Lastly, I always arrive very early for weddings and have ample time to consult with the officiant and coordinator if needed. If you would still like me to attend the rehearsal, the rates are $110/hr. plus any travel over 25 miles.

What if my ceremony is in Cantonese/Spanish/another language?
No problem – I have played at several weddings like this and things went very smoothly, since we had already had a consultation and I watch the officiant carefully for cues. I have lived all over the world and am sensitive to multiple cultures and traditions, and enjoy participating in the Bay Area’s diversity.

What happens during the consultation?
The consultation usually happens once you have a fairly clear idea of your ceremony format. You will already have had my CD to listen to, as well as a copy of the consultation worksheet with the topics we will be covering, plus we will have had preliminary discussions prior to signing the contract. If you are having trouble deciding on the format of your ceremony, there are several excellent books I recommend and used myself in planning my own Bay Area wedding in 2004:
The Knot Guide to Weddings Vows and Traditions.
Into The Garden: A Wedding Anthology (wonderful readings selections)

During the consultation I will ask you more about the nature of your ceremony and explore further what styles of music most resonate with you. You might have already picked out some songs from the CD, which I will play live for you, and I am always happy to present alternatives. Then we fill out all the other song selections together, with me playing suggestions you can choose from. There are many options listed on my repertoire lists and I have a massive library at my disposal from my studies and teaching – just ask! Additionally, I have a large repertoire of my own music and can create a unique piece for you.

Finally, I can make the appropriate choices if you feel too overwhelmed or have run out of time.
The consultation is always a fun and exciting meeting - I really enjoy spending time with my clients during this important stage in their lives. I try to make the meeting as stress-free and enjoyable as possible during this busy time.

Housekeeping

Rates
You will only be charged for my playing time - set up and break down is not charged. All ceremonial time is considered playing time, since I need to pay close attention to the proceedings and be ready to jump in at any time. My rates are competitive with other Bay Area harpists – please call or email me with your event type, date, time and location and I will get right back to you with a quote. My rates have flexibility regarding bereavement events, weekday events, and long term engagements.

How do I reserve a date?
Once you decide to book me, please contact me ASAP. At any given time, I may be speaking to a number of clients regarding the same date and time, as I consider myself available until a contract is in place. I’ve twice had occasions where clients called to confirm the exact same date and time within hours of each other after having waited to get back to me, creating a lot of disappointment and inconvenience for the later party. Once you have confirmed with me that you wish to hire me, I will draw up a contract and mail it to you. There is a 5 day grace period for the return of the signed contract. If the contract has not been returned within 5 days, I reopen the date to other clients.

How far in advance should I book?
The Bay Area is a very popular event choice, so please contact me early. I take bookings up to two years in advance.

How exactly do I pay?
First, I mail out 2 copies of the contract for signing; one for your records and the other to be returned to me along with the deposit ($100) in the SASE I provide. The full balance is due 1 month prior to your event. I will send a receipt of the final balance via email and am happy to snail mail a receipt if preferred. I accept checks, cash, and paypal.

What if I contact you and you’re already booked?
The conversation does not end there. I want you to have excellent music for your event, so will share my referrals list with you. I’ve chosen these musicians for their outstanding musicianship, experience in event performance, and friendliness.

Odds and Ends

What is the difference between your Cithara Nova/Celtic harp and a pedal harp?
Based on the traditional/Celtic harp, my Cithara Nova is crafted by renowned luthier John Westling, and described by its maker as "a quantum leap above anything we have built in terms of sound." This revolutionary harp's design results in rich bass tones, while light string tension throughout allows pure, clear treble tones - the perfect solo instrument. It handles chromatics via levers rather than pedals, and is strung with heat and humidity resistant synthetic carbon fiber rather than nylon/gut and brass.

The pedal harp was developed primarily during the 19th century for orchestral playing, rather than solo performance. As such, it is louder via high string tension and can play rapid chromatic changes via pedals, but has less distinction between melody and bass, making for a less suitable solo instrument. The traditional harp can now be amplified to the same levels as a pedal harp, while retaining its beautiful sound.

Pedal harps range in size between 5 and a half to just over 6 feet tall. The Cithara Nova stands 5 and a half feet tall, large for a traditional harp. Pedal harps weigh between 60-75 lbs; since the Cithara Nova does not have the heavy mechanics of the pedals, it weighs only 27 lbs, making it very portable and quick to set up.

All in all, the Cithara Nova harp is a perfect choice in terms of sound, visual beauty and flexibility.

Do you teach?
I ran my private harp and piano teaching studio full time until 2004, at which point I decided to focus primarily on performing and composing. I did keep a small number of dedicated students, and teach on Tuesdays. Please contact me for further information.

What other musical activities are you engaged in?
I play with stunning Balkan/Middle Eastern ensemble Ya Elah (www.yaelah.com), and Trio Trillium (3 harps in concert, plus vocals) with Maureen Brennan and Patrice Haan. My musical partner James Boblak and I head Sirenspoke scoring (www.sirenspoke.com), which provides custom background music to films, documentaries and other media. I have one solo CD, Panta Rhei (www.pantarheicd.com), and am working on my second, The Bright Knowledge. Finally, I am a strong believer in the healing power of music, and play for two wonderful organizations; Healing Notes, which brings music to Children’s Hospital Oakland, and Bread & Roses (www.breadandroses.org), which brings music to people in nursing homes, hospitals, prisons, and other facilities where chances to experience live music are scarce.

Can I see you play live?
Yes, I do play events open to the public. Click here

What do you do besides music?
Most importantly, I spend time with beloved husband Michiel and friends. I also love to read (mythology, psychology, armchair travel being favorites), travel (recent destinations; Turkey 2005, Argentina 2006, as well as our annual pilgrimages back to the Netherlands and Ireland), and dance the tango.

2002 - 2009 Diana Rowan  All rights reserved.