Get to know the folks who work behind the scenes to keep our fantastic Center for Musical Arts running smoothly! Nancy Brace is the Center’s registrar, and she is also a harpist — hear about Nancy’s fascinating tradition of playing her harp in a hardware store during the holidays and more in the interview below.
Center for Musical Arts (Erica Reid, Marketing Manager): Hello! We’re sitting down today with our registrar at the Center for Musical Arts, Nancy Brace. How are you, Nancy?
Nancy Brace: I’m well!
Center: Well, thank you so much for sitting down with us. We’re just trying to highlight the staff and faculty who work so hard at the Center. You are working behind the scenes, but your role is very important. Can you tell us a bit about your history with the Center, what you do?
Nancy: Sure. As the registrar, I actually take care of all of the interfaces between the students and the families and the teachers, set up kids and adults with lessons. And I actually started with the Center as the Rocky Mountain Center for Musical Arts as a harp teacher in the other building before 2000. So, kind of neat to be on both sides. I was a teacher, and then also the registrar, makes it helpful.
Center: Alright. You mentioned that you play the harp, which I know is another important part of your life, though you’re not teaching at the moment. I read in an article that in the fifth grade you decided that you wanted to play harp and only harp. Can you tell us a little bit about that experience?
Nancy: Sure. When I was two and a half, actually, my grandparents and my parents used to sit down on Saturday nights and watch The Lawrence Welk Show. So that’s really where I got the idea of this harpist in this long flowing gown that would only show up occasionally in the orchestra, but was very taken by that. So then I kept saying, “I want to play the harp. I want to play the harp,” and my parents were like, “Okay.”
So finally in fifth grade, they got me a harp, and they also had me play piano at the same time. That was really a good thing to do because harp is a lot like a piano, and piano is such a great instrument to go to first. But I never wanted to play the piano, so I was like, “Can I be done with this now? Can I just play the harp?” [laughs]
Center: It was a match made in heaven then! I understand that during the holidays, you have an interesting harp tradition, playing in an unlikely location. Can you tell us about that?
Nancy: I play at McGuckin’s Hardware in Boulder. I’ve been doing that for almost 30 years now, so it’s very much a part of my Christmas tradition. And it’s such a fun, unique thing to do. Nobody really expected to walk into a hardware store and have a harp playing. So it’s unexpected, but now it’s pretty much a tradition. I have people that come back to Colorado for the holidays or visit family or have been in McGuckin’s 10 years ago, that just come say hi. It’s cool because I grew up in Boulder and so I see all my childhood friends come in, too. So I see them every Christmas, and that’s pretty much where I see my elementary school and high school buddies. It’s just kind of fun.
Center: There must be, like you said, a special magic to encountering music where you don’t expect it. I mean, I think a lot of people around the holidays seek out music, but then to just have it happen in an unexpected place, I think is even more special. Do you find that to be true?
Nancy: Absolutely. I have so many people that come around the corner and go, “Oh, it’s live. I thought it was canned,” because they don’t expect that. And it is, that’s the fun part about it.
Center: Is there anything that has ever happened to you that has been surprising during one of these recitals?
Nancy: The hard thing this year was not being able to interact with the kids, because that’s really, really important to me. I’m probably one of the only harpists that let the kids touch my harp. So they can come up and they can play it and they can ask questions and they can do… and that was really hard for me this year. But they still came by, and they still waved. And they still danced in the aisles to the songs. I had one ballet girl that came up and just did ballet for a few minutes, and that’s so cool.
Center: I bet you’ve inspired a lot of future harp performers from this McGuckin experience.
Nancy Brace: That’s some of the most heartwarming stories that I hear and not necessarily harpists, but musicians. And that, then again, ties to why my registrar job at [the Center for Musical Arts] is so important to me is because that’s the connection that I feel is tying people to music. And however you do that, by playing it, or by hooking them up with a great teacher, or by figuring out what their passion is, that’s the cool part about it.
Center: Fantastic. Well, we’re so lucky to have you at the Center. Thank you for spending a few minutes talking to us today.
Nancy: Absolutely. Thank you.