Magazine article American Harp Journal

Symphony Spotlight Series: Danis Kelly and Susan Dederich-Pejovich

Magazine article American Harp Journal

Symphony Spotlight Series: Danis Kelly and Susan Dederich-Pejovich

Article excerpt

WITH each passing season comes a certain amount of change. For orchestral players, that can be change in the repertoire, schedule, and sometimes personnel. In this issue, we celebrate two legendary harpists who made the decision this past season to make the biggest change: retirement! After four decades, Danis Kelly, of the Milwaukee Symphony & Santa Fe Opera Orchestras, and Susan Dederich-Pejovich, from the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, retired from their respective positions. They have opened up to share with us about their careers, supporters, lessons learned, and what they are looking forward to in the next phase of their lives!

Danis Kelly

Danis Kelly held the Walter Schroeder Principal Harp Chair of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra for forty-six years, and was also the principal harpist for the Santa Fe Opera for forty-five years. She was featured soloist many times with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra as well as with other orchestras in Wisconsin, Washington and Texas. She has taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1977-90), Interlochen Arts Academy (1966-67) and in her private studio, and has presented master classes both here and abroad in Hong Kong & Beijing.

Danis began piano lessons at six years old. By her teens, she had learned to play the piano, cello and harp, as every child in her family studied three or four instruments. "I started the harp at age nine, the cello at age ten and studied both instruments until high school graduation. I believe it was very helpful to run back and forth between them in order to get the total rehearsal and performance experience."

At sixteen, Danis was fortunate to attend the National Music Camp at Interlochen, MI, and was a part of the National High School Orchestra, which was selected by Jacqueline Kennedy to perform on the White House Lawn for President Kennedy. "We performed on a special summer stage, and President Kennedy came up on the stage and spoke on a microphone to introduce us. After the performance, we were guided to the Rose Garden where President Kennedy spoke to us and let us take photos. No selfies in those days, but we got some good photos anyway!"

Danis attended the Interlochen Arts Academy for two years when it first opened in 1962, and at age eighteen, upon graduating, she was awarded a full scholarship to study at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

By the time she was twenty, Danis was beginning her professional orchestral career, performing as a member of the Chicago Little Symphony, made up of teaching professionals in the Chicago/Michigan area. Next, as a student at the Cleveland Institute of Music studying with Alice Chalifoux, she performed as substitute harpist with the Cleveland Orchestra under George Szell. Danis graduated from CIM in 1968 (with honors from Pi Kappa Lambda Honor Society), and the following season she began her position as principal harpist for the Florida Symphony Orchestra in Orlando, FL.

In 1969, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra had a harp opening and, through national auditions, Danis was selected by Kenneth Schermerhorn to be the principal harpist. With the MSO, Danis performed the world over, touring Europe, Japan, Cuba, and the United States, including many Carnegie Hall performances.

Danis commented: "It [the job] was a love of music on many levels! I always had to practice a lot. With the work ethics, which had been taught to me, I always wanted to be fully prepared. Sometimes, I would have to pinch myself to come to grips with all the gorgeous music surrounding me! While playing anywhere from three to nine concerts or operas a week all my life, with many world class conductors, I learned to follow that 'stick' like a hawk, make [the harp] sound beautiful while still being part of a percussion section, and I learned, not from harpists, how to phrase. So it was love of music on many levels!"

One of the last pupils of Carlos Salzedo at his Harp Colony in Camden, Maine, Danis Kelly clearly achieved Mr. …

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