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Saratoga Harp Colony lets musicians focus on their craft in a serene setting

Maryanne Meyer recently finished her master's degree, and it was time for the real world, which for Meyer meant finding work as a professional harpist.

She plays with Symphony in C in Camden, N.J., and the Delaware Symphony, and she always keeps her eyes open for side gigs.

I take whatever comes up, she said.

In many ways, Meyer is living her dream, but there is one drawback: She suddenly has a lot less practice time than she used to. That's why she's so grateful to be spending part of the summer at the Saratoga Harp Colony.

"It's such a beautiful setting to be able to focus so completely on playing," she said. "It's very valuable to me."

Meyer first came to the colony five years ago, when it accepted its first class. The colony was founded by Elizabeth Hainen, the principal harpist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, who also happened to be one of Meyer's professors when she was studying for her master's at Temple University.

Hainan decided to open the colony after a similar one in Maine closed its doors.

"I felt there was a void on the East Coast," Hainan said.

Familiar with Saratoga since the Philadelphia Orchestra calls the Saratoga Performing Arts Center its summer home, Hainan thought it was the "perfect place" to set up shop.

The colony's students are generally from high school age to college age. Most have aspirations of being professional harpists. They spend their time at the colony immersed in music -- taking lessons from professionals, watching the Philadelphia Orchestra and others perform at SPAC, staging mock auditions and putting on performances. The colony will hold concerts Sunday, Aug. 16, at Skidmore College and Saturday, Aug. 22, at the Adelphi Hotel in Saratoga.

Skidmore is more than just a concert venue for the students. It's where they live while attending the colony, which offers a one-week session or a three-week session.

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