So, you want to be Sharlene Wallace? Well, okay, but I’ll tell you right now: It’s near impossible.
Shar plays the concert harp in symphonies in Guelph, Oakville and Kingston, Ontario, among others, and she’s been a concert soloist all over the country. For you that would mean at least a couple of decades of practice, a degree from U of T with the renowned teacher Judy Loman and more studies with the famed Alfredo Rolando Ortiz – the world’s leading exponent of the Paraguayan harp. He even wrote music for Shar to premiere at the World Harp Congress. It’s true.
But if you’re going to be Sharlene, you also have to write several albums’ worth of your own music, full of subtle colours and heart-breaking melodies. You need to gather the greatest players in the country to join you on those records, George Koller, Evelyn Datl, Sal Ferreras and Joseph Macerollo plus so many others I can’t even. And then you have to have Shelly Berger and Jim McGrath orchestrate all that music for a symphony orchestra. I know, right?
You also have to live with harps all over your house. Honestly, finding a place to sit at Shar’s is like finding street parking downtown.
You have to teach at three universities (Laurier, Guelph and York… and sometimes Waterloo) and give workshops from Newfoundland to B.C. You have to drive everywhere in any weather at any time in a boat of a vehicle big enough to carry a couple of lever harps and at least one concert harp (88 lbs, 47-strings), and if it’s too cold or too hot, which it always is, you’ve got to bring them all into the hotel with you and treat them like colicky babies.
If you’re Shar you have to organize all of that – composing, recording, touring, collaborating, orchestrating, teaching…And then, when it counts, you have to forget it all and start making everything up.
That’s right. Sharlene Wallace is also a fantastic improviser. She is, by necessity, the most organized creator, performer and teacher, but still knows how to rely on the impulse of the moment and completely let go.
It’s kind of incredible.
So, you know what? Forget it. You should just be someone else. The only person who can be Sharlene Wallace is Sharlene Wallace.