Even at 14, there’s an elegance about Audrey Rickert that makes her being a harpist not at all surprising.
She’s tall, she’s slim, she sits with her back straight and her hair cascading well beyond her shoulders.
Her teacher, professional harpist Nancy Brennand, describes her as “an amazing student with an innate feeling for phraseology and musicality.”
It might have something to do with genes.
Her mother, Kathryn, and her aunt Margaret Johnston play the flute. Her aunt Louise Covington plays the cello and the violin. Her “Granna” Robin Duncan is a pianist and a music teacher.
It might also have something to do with commitment.
The instrument captured her attention when she was 8 years old, she started taking lessons when she was 9, and she practices every day.
Her Mom says she often has to remind Audrey to “take a break and go have some fun.”
Along with the mandatory piano lessons Kathryn and Doug Rickert’s seven children will have, they’ll be encouraged to choose a second instrument to study.
“I want them to take two years of basic piano to learn to read music and to learn rhythm,” Kathryn Rickert says about the children who range in age from 14 to just over a year.
“I had an app where I could listen to experts play, and I listened over and over again to the harp, and I liked how pretty it was,” Audrey says about why she chose the harp.
In 2018, she joined the Long Bay Youth Symphony, taking her teacher’s place as the youth symphony’s only harpist.
In December 2019, she played for the Myrtle Beach Dickens Show Luncheon & Tea.
In February, she won third place in the Long Bay Youth Symphony’s 2020 Concerto Competition, playing “Andantino,” from Mozart’s Concerto in C Major for Harp and Flute, KV299.
In March, she presented “An Evening of Harp Music” for the Mullins Choral Club.
Audrey says she still gets nervous when she performs in public, but her Mom says it’s more excitement than nervousness.
The harp is heavy, Audrey says, especially since she changed from a lever harp to a pedal harp after two years.
Doug Rickert, who owns a lawn maintenance business, helps transport the harp that his daughter describes as “big and cumbersome.”
Brennand, who has been principle harpist and soloist with the American Symphony under Stokowski at Carnegie Hall, has held positions as harpist with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, Chautauqua Symphony and the Baltimore Symphony.
About Audrey Rickert, she says, “It’s not like a student playing, it’s like a musician playing. Phrasing is your feeling, and it’s not mechanical. It gives, and you understand what the musician is after.
“Audrey has a natural feeling for that, and she also has very good technique.
“There’s something about her,” her teacher says. “She’s calm and focused, she’s very accomplished.”
Audrey, who is homeschooled, would like to be able to play more orchestral music and to “play at more venues and gigs.”
She may pursue the harp professionally, but the committed Christian says she is still “praying for the Lord’s will and seeking Him first.
“I’m seeking Him in prayer and reading His Word and seeking guidance from my Mom and Dad.”
If not the harp, there’s archeology and history which Audrey says she’s always enjoyed, but she knows there’s time to make those decisions.
There have already been choices that might have dissuaded the less faithful.
Audrey hasn’t ever attended a traditional lariat-making, kayak-rowing camp, and has gone to only summer music camps.
She’s also never played sports.
“When I was younger, I resented that, but as I get older, I see the benefit,” she says.
She doesn’t consider the lack of sports and traditional summer camp to be sacrifices because the harp is, for her, an opportunity and a blessing.
“I’m not distracted by other things,” Audrey says about keeping her focus on her music.
“Audrey has grown from my telling her to practice daily to her wanting to practice daily,” her Mom says.
“She knows what it takes to have a deadline or a goal, and to put in what’s necessary to be her best, and that translates into other areas of her life.”
Audrey’s teacher, Nancy Brennand, says “Audrey has something you cannot teach, and that’s a love of music. She feels it.”