Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Harping On: Cheryl Arena

1. When and how did you first start playing harmonica?
1987...I wanted to learn how to play harmonica so I looked for a job that I would have downtime to practice...and I found it! I drove limosines for 4 years and while I was sitting in the car waiting for people I would was perfect.
2. Your singing is fantastic.

Were you trained professionally, or is it a natural talent?
No, I'm self-taught, but I wouldn't call it natural because I think of the voice as an instrument like any other, that hopefully gets better with lots of practice :)

3. What would you say are your strong points on the harp?
My tone...and the main reason I say that is because that's what people have always said to me since I first started playing.

As far as what I think..I know I play from my heart and deep down in my soul and I think that shows.
4. Are there any techinques you'd like to improve on?
Yeah, just about everything! There's always more to learn and you can always get better that's what I love about playing music!
5. You are a regular instructor at John Gindick's Harmonica Jam Camp.Can you tell us a bit about that?
Sure,I could go on and on...I LOVE teaching at Jon's camps. I learn so much myself and it's so rewarding to see people's progress in just 5 days.

It's pretty intense...we start at 3pm the first day and go till 5pm the 5th day with barely any time to sleep in between.

Jam Camp is the perfect name for them because the campers do get to jam ALOT! Whether it's group classes, one on ones, jamming with an in house band or just a guitar player or going out on the town to a local's a pretty hands on experience for everyone.

And it's all ages...teenagers to over 65 retirees...for some reason folks hear the word "camp" and think its just for kids.

We usually have at least 7 seasoned instructors with their own unique talents to share...each camp has a different flavor. In 2008 we did our first camp in Clarksdale Mississippi and it went over so well that we do 2 a year there now..September and March. It's the perfect setting for learning harmonica..being in the Delta...where the Blues began. There's so much history can feel it!

6. As a female harmonica player, do you get different reactions from audiences, or from other harp players?

Yes...the standard comment is "wow I've never heard a woman play harmonica like that" and my standard answer is usually "wow, nobody's ever said that to me before"...then we both laugh.
7. What harps do you prefer, and why?
I play Marine Bands right out of the box. I prefer the wood combs. I would prefer customized harps (if I could afford them). Several years ago, I use to get my harps customized by Richard Sleigh until he got too busy. It was hard to go back to harps right out of the box...

This past July when my good friend, Jason Ricci, was in Dallas he reworked, (with Richard's permission), a few of my old Sleigh harps and he was telling me about his new B-Radical harp that he's been working on with Brad Harrison. I know what a pefectionist Jason is and how meticulous he is about working on harps so I'm really looking forward to his new

B-Radical and I have no doubt they'll be my new favorite harmonicas!
8. What are some of your likes/dislikes about the harmonica community?
I like that there IS a harmonica community! Anybody that gets together to celebrate and/or promote the coolest instrument on the planet is ok with me!
9.What advice would you give to someone who is learning, or hoping to improve on the harmonica?
Listening is key! Listen to whatever you're trying to learn and really absorb it before you even put the harp in your mouth.

And when you play consider all the elements of your playing... your timing, your tone, your attack, and have patience with yourself to learn it I didn't say don't have to copy someone else's licks note for note..just make every note YOU play,count.

Absorb yourself in listening to music and listen to all the instruments not just harmonica..then play what you feel,feel what you play and above all enjoy the journey of making music!

10. Any last words for HOOT?
So glad y'all give a HOOT!

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