April 14, 2024
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April 14, 2024
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Harpist Leah Miller: A 10-Year-Old David Hamelech?

Leah Miller is as refined as her instrument, and plans to immortalize the angelic art of harp playing, her father explained. “She is inspired by David, who played the harp, and today so few people have the skill that she doesn’t want it to be forgotten from the Jewish people. It is so ancient and still so beautiful, and has endured the test of time.” Now 10 years old, the fifth-grade phenomenon at Yeshivat He’atid can delicately stroke chords bigger than her, producing celestial music of old in the modern world.

The harp’s beauty was unknown to her until her father brought the instrument home as a surprise. Leah’s immediate love for the instrument was evident in her modest characterization of the harp as “very unique, calm and soothing. It sounds pretty once you get it right.”

Playing since first grade, Leah related her practice schedule as habitually steadfast.“In the school year, I play every day for 15 minutes, but our schedule is a little different in the summer. Once a week I have lessons.”

Leah’s harp teacher, Ardis Cavin, “has all these different harp students, and we each have separate lessons, and once a year we all get together and practice our songs together… Only before recitals I bring my harp to harp lessons, but otherwise I’ll practice on hers,” noted Leah.

Leah graciously shares her talent, instructing her youngest sibling how to play the harp with a “pink harpsicle, a baby harp, but you can’t play as much on it because there are fewer octaves.” Elaborating on the mechanics, Leah commented that the “Cs are always red and the Fs are always blue. The levers make it sharper flat.”

“I mostly play Jewish songs for the holidays like Chanukah and Purim. I know the Israeli national anthem and slow songs that my harp teacher taught me. There’s a song that I learned on my own; I took the notes, and I just started playing. I don’t make up songs yet, but I can take any sheet of notes and start playing. It takes at least two days to get it good, and then it doesn’t take long to learn it by heart,” Leah explained.

Leah has serenaded Bergenfield and various other locales, playing such classics as “Hava Nagila,” “Goodnight My Someone,” “Hatikvah,” and her favorite, “Green Sleeves,” at a myriad of functions including Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut festivities, Yeshivat He’Atid events, CareOne Nursing Home programs and Flat Rock Brook Nature Center events.

“My parents want me to make a lot of shows so I can save up to get a bigger harp. This harp is getting a little small, it’s supposed to touch your ear… When I first started playing it did hurt a lot but now my fingers are used to it because they’re stronger. You only play with your skin, not your fingernails because otherwise it makes a vibrating sound that you don’t want to hear, so a pick wouldn’t sound good. You can’t strum the same way as a guitar,” remarked Leah.

Although the harp is her area of expertise, Leah is not limited to vertical strings alone. She is “able to play the piano because if you look at a grand piano, it’s the shape of a harp and the same concept.When I play the harp, I look at piano notes. I have to change up the fingering because you don’t play with your pinky. My harp teacher challenges me to do it on my own, because to do the fingering you have to have an ear for music and it has to make sense according to your song,” she related.

Doubly conversant in her Jewish heritage, Leah explained that the entrance to Ir David mounts an “old-fashioned harp. They say that is the type of harp that David Hamelech played. We don’t know if he played a harp or a lyre. And they say that David’s harp strings were made out of a sheep’s small intestines.” Also, the Kineret is the shape of a harp. The harp is called kinor in Hebrew, and that’s why its called Kineret.”

Defying her youthful size, Leah’s undaunted aspiration is to someday play “The Star Spangled Banner” in Washington, D.C.

To book Leah Miller for an event, please visit www.thekinnor.com.

By Rachel Liebling

Rachel Liebling was a summer intern at The Jewish Link and is a rising freshman at Stern College for Women.

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