Canyon Crest Academy’s harpist is California’s first stringer

By Glenn Borok

Julia Schorn, a senior at Canyon Crest Academy, began her musical career at a young age when she took up the piano. However, after six years of training, the instrument and she “just weren’t clicking” and that’s when she decided to make a change. She remembered that her grandfather had always wanted one of his daughters to be a harpist, and Julia wanted to fulfill his wishes. Julia then broached the idea with her parents, but, according to her, they were very reluctant at first, wanting her to play a “normal” instrument like the violin. But, like in her many other activities, she persisted in her quest to play the harp, and eventually started lessons with her current harp teacher, Sheila Sterling.

A few months later, Julia’s parents bought her a concert grand pedal harp so she could play with an orchestra. After that monumental decision, Julia and her parents never looked back. Starting off slowly, she gradually eased into harder songs and became one of the most accomplished teenage harpists in the United States. Self-described as inquisitive and committed, Julia soon became very involved, practicing around five hours a day in the summer and two or more hours during the school year.

All that practice has paid off, as she is currently the Principal Harpist for the San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory, as well as a member of the CCA Instrumental Music Conservatory. She has only one regret about her arduous journey to the top of the harp field. “I would just start earlier,” she said. “I went to a camp in Switzerland for harp and they were all incredibly amazing [because] they had been playing since they were very young.”

She maintains that the only negative aspects of playing the harp are tuning it and the transportation, as you can imagine with such a large instrument. However, those few negatives are negated by the positives, which she states are “everything else.” Even though she has won numerous awards as a harpist, the modest Julia states, “I’m not that good, I still have a long way to go.” Julia doesn’t believe she has accomplished her goals, but thinks she has far exceeded her expectations and couldn’t have imagined all the amazing opportunities she has been afforded when she began over six years ago.

She has also parlayed her instrumental prowess into a club called “Music Moves,” which travels to senior living facilities and plays music to those who don’t have a chance to go out and enjoy it. For young aspiring harpists who hope to be as successful as Julia, her advice is to stick with it and don’t give up despite the numerous hardships that may occur playing such a unique instrument.

Julia has traveled to many places to help make her into the harpist she is, visiting Denton, Texas and New York City for harp conferences. She even played in Times Square in front of hundreds of people after the planned Harp Flash Mob didn’t pan out as planned. One of Julia’s favorite harp experiences occurred when she visited the Eastman School of Music, in Rochester, New York, to study medieval music two summers ago, in hopes of playing in an ancient castle in her grandparents’ hometown of Siculiana, Italy. Last summer, Julia attended the official Eastman harp workshop, allowing her to meet harpists from around the United States and hone her craft.

Although Julia was the one who has become the superstar harp player, she credits a large part of the journey to her family, which has helped her along the way. Whether it was her mother, helping her transport her harp, or her sister always being there for her, Julia says they were critical to her development as a harpist and as a person. She says her mother, sister, and grandfather were all role models for her, inspiring her to achieve greatness and follow in the successful family lineage.

Looking anxiously towards the future, Julia has applied to a short list of colleges which include harp teachers that teach the French Method, a way of playing the instrument. She has already been accepted Early Action to Princeton University, and is still waiting to hear from other top music schools.

At college, Julia hopes to double major or minor in music, but plans to major in something else, which is still up for discussion, although she has had her eye on English, her favorite subject, or neuroscience. Julia knows she will continue to play the harp in a college orchestra, but still hasn’t decided how music will fit into her higher education.

Apart from the harp, Julia spends her free time like most average teenagers do, watching television and movies, listening to music, and hanging out with friends. Her favorite TV shows include Elementary, Parks and Recreation, and Criminal Minds, while she loves listening to bands of Montreal, Led Zeppelin, and lots of classical music.

Now, while Julia continues on her harp journey to college, no one, including herself, knows where this will take her, but if history is any indicator, she’ll be a star to watch for in the future no matter what she chooses to pursue.

Glenn Borok is a senior at Canyon Crest Academy. He is co-editor in chief of Pulse Magazine, the official magazine of Canyon Crest Academy, and an intern at this newspaper.