By Mark Fleshman
An unusual path for a concert musician, but Taylor Ann Fleshman has always celebrated her small-town beginnings. Kernersville has added thousands of new residents in recent years so many may not recall the four-foot-tall young lady with the six-foot-tall harp. At age nine, Taylor was provided the opportunity by C&H Cafeteria to play her harp for supper customers for tips. It started innocently enough when her father asked the manager if she could visit and play. He said it was ok, but not to come on a busy evening. That first night at C&H the manager quickly saw the response his customers were having hearing beautiful music. As she left that night the manager stated, “Please come anytime you can.” Taylor became a hometown feature playing at Mickeys, Chick-Fil-A, Biscuitville, and C&H where local residents faithfully supported her music endeavors.
Local harp teacher Julie Money, taught Taylor harp for seven years before passing her to NC School of the Arts professor Jackie Bartlett. Taylor Ann went on to earn her Harp Performance degree at Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and her Masters at Indiana University as a Fellow. Upon graduating, Taylor auditioned for and won the principle harp position at The Orchestra Now (TON) in the Hudson Valley in New York State. TON is a group of vibrant young musicians from across the globe. Handpicked from the world’s leading conservatories, orchestra members perform with notable artists and guest conductors.
Taylor earned an Advanced Certificate in Performance Studies through Bard University at TON and has performed at The Fisher Center, Lincoln Center, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Recently she performed with TON at the famed Carnegie Hall in New York City. This was Taylor’s second performance at Carnegie and she was selected to give two brief talks on stage about Carlos Chavez’s Piano Concerto (where she had a lengthy harp solo), and Amadeus Hartmanns Symphony No 1, Essay for a Requiem. Her father, Mark Fleshman, and her financial advisor, Randy Walker, both from Kernersville attended the concert.
In December, Taylor was surprised by her father with a trip to the Lyon and Healy Harp factory in Chicago. Mr. Fleshman had arranged for the company to make three identical LH Style #23 professional model harps. These harps are handcrafted taking almost a year each to build. From wood selection to the installation of over 1000 moving parts, the strings, pedals, and of course, the intricate carvings, it is a painstaking process. Though they are almost identical in appearance, each harp has a unique sound. Because the harps are not mass produced, and the reaction of the wood in each harp to the thousands of pounds of pressure that 47 strings create, the sounds vary to a trained ear. Taylor Ann and a local Chicago harpist played and listened to the harps over four hours. At the end of the day the harp she selected was loaded into her uncle Charles SUV for the trip home to Kernersville for the holidays.
Taylor will now begin taking auditions with symphony’s in the USA and abroad. It is her dream to land a principle harp position with a larger orchestra. Covid took a toll on orchestras, and many are just now beginning to perform again. Traveling and performing in more than 15 countries on four continents, Taylor Ann has garnered awards in international competitions like 2018 Winner PRISMA Concerto Competition, First Prize 3 Arts Scholarship Competition, Second Prize Ceren Necipoglu Competition in Turkey, and First prize CCM Undergraduate Instrumental Competition to name a few. She has performed harp concertos with Jakarta Simfonia, Moscow Symphony, and concerts with Civic Orchestra of Chicago, and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. She has freelanced with the band Evanescence, and Celtic Thunder. She is currently scheduling future engagements in Indonesia and South America.
You can visit Taylor Ann at www.harpsnthings.com. Kernersville to Carnegie Hall… certainly not the road most travelled, but for this hometown girl a road that has been full of adventure.