Photograph by Jaime Lazzaro
“The harp is six feet tall and weighs about 95 pounds.”
La Mesa harpist Tasha Smith Godinez came to her instrument as a child growing up in the East County. “I actually started with the violin when I was three years old. My older brother was in a youth orchestra and there was a harpist, and I got really excited every time I saw her. And then when I was eight years old, I walked out into the living room on Christmas morning and my parents had rented me an instrument! They even drove me up to Escondido once a week for lessons. I continued to play both instruments through high school, but the harp just felt like a part of me, so when I needed to focus on just one, it was an easy decision.”
Godinez attended San Diego State for her bachelor’s degree before heading off to France to study at the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris. She returned to San Diego State for her masters. I was curious about the prospects of making a living playing the harp.
“I’m a full-time musician,” she says. “That means performing as a soloist, and in duo and trio combinations, and as a freelancer in various orchestras. I play weddings and parties, and I teach at a private studio with 28 students, mostly harp, but I still play and teach the violin as well. These days, that means a lot of FaceTime and Zoom lessons. I’m also an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego.”
Tasha’s instrument seems to be bigger than she is. I wondered about the practicality of hauling it around.
“Well, the harp is six feet tall and it weighs about 95 pounds. I fold the seats down in my SUV and pack it all up and there are special dollies so I can wheel it around when I get to the gig. The load-in-and-out factor is 15 or 20 minutes, depending on whether I need to provide amplification or not.”
What are her plans for the immediate future?
“I’ve got a new album out called Harp CHICK, which is 12 songs by the great composer Chick Corea, that drops on May 30 on Ennanga Records. It’s mostly solo arrangements but the great singer Leonard Patton joins me on three songs.”
Any misconceptions about her instrument she’d like to clear up?
“The most damaging cliché is that it’s a delicate instrument. It’s actually very powerful and it can be quite experimental. A lot of the music I play is aimed at breaking those stereotypes. It can be gentle and angry. It can be loud. The harp can fit in jazz, rock, and many other styles.”