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

It might sound like summer camp, but Hainen shies away from that word, which she thinks conjures up images of macrame.

"It's not a camp," she said. "It's a program. It's a festival. They're here to study."

"It's a chance to be with our own kind," said Diana Elliott, who studies with Hainen at Temple. Like Meyer, Elliott hopes to make a career of playing the harp, and she thinks the experience she's gaining at the harp colony will prove invaluable.

"It's fantastic. I'm loving it," she said. "We're all teaching each other something. Then we get to see the orchestra. You get a chance to see master musicians."

It's a chance that Hainen didn't have as a kid. Her dad was a violinist with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra, so Hainen grew up around music. But when she decided she wanted to play the harp after being captivated by the instrument during a performance of "The Nutcracker," there was no place nearby where she could totally indulge her love of the instrument.

That's one of the reasons she relished the idea of having a colony where young harpists could study.

"I'm kind of living vicariously through them," she said with a laugh.

Helen Cerhold, who lives outside of Philadelphia in Lansdale, was just 5 when she was introduced to the harp by her aunt, Yi Liu, a professional harpist who bought Cerhold a tiny Irish version of the instrument. Now 13, Cerhold said she wasn't taken with the harp right away, but she's grown fond enough of it that when she learned about the colony, "I thought it would be good experience."

This is her second year at the colony, and she particularly likes being around other people who take the harp seriously.

Hainen finds those students largely through word of mouth, as well as through ads in harp magazines. Potential attendees must send a recording as well as letters of recommendation. They're responsible for their own transportation to and from Saratoga, as well as the cost of tuition, which is $1,100 for the one-week session and $2,600 for the full session.

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