Over the years, I have often reminded myself to feel grateful for the amazing life that I lead. The simple pleasure of having a warm bed to sleep in and food on the table every day is more than what most have. I rarely think about how those simple day to day luxuries are more than what so many are afforded.
This past February, I had the honour of visiting an orphanage in Rwanda called L’Esperance Rwanda. These children do have the privilege of meals and a bed to sleep in but being with them taught me about life and happiness. They gave me memories that I will cherish for a lifetime.
Below are some of my writings in my journal while I was there.
The Real Story: How is it possible for a child to end up in an orphanage? How is it possible for a single parent to give up his/her child for an orphanage? As an extended family member of a child, how does one allow him/her to live in an orphanage and not in the comfort of their own home?
For most of these children, their mothers died at child birth and their fathers gave them up unknowing, unwilling or unable to care for them. For some of these children, their stories are even more grave.
Most of the people in the countryside can barely put food on the table once a day and for others, there is no food at all.
The government attempts to keep up appearances and tries to implement laws that the country is not yet ready for. One such example is of the government wanting all children to be “accounted for.” As a result, they are closing all orphanages and expecting the children to go live with family who cannot support them, who don’t want them or who will try to kill them in order to own the land that used to belong to the child’s parents. The government seem to forget that the definition of an orphanage is a house for children who are without an able or willing family.
On the topic of the government: it does not support anyone with disabilities because it believes the family should take care of that person. But when that person has no family and no education; what happens? I understand that Rwanda is still a developing country who is desperately trying to emerge from the ashes of the genocide but I can’t help but wonder if it is always the right decisions that are being made.
I sit here in shorts and a T-shirt knowing that I have it all. I am loved and have always have been by many people. The sheer good fortune, wealth, health and security that I have been lucky enough to have in my life is greater than so many will ever know. I knew that already, but now, it is different. I now possess knowledge that will never allow me to go back to the way I used to think.
Erina is in the picture above. I met her my first evening at the orphanage and then I spent most of my time with her. She told me that she could no longer go to school because in September she started having pain and weakness in her legs. I did everything I could to ensure that she would get a proper doctor in the city, we did exercises to strengthen her extremely weak muscles and we did a lot of learning together. She is one of the brightest and coolest people I have ever met and I have such respect for her. We had a bond that I will always treasure.Typically, after a day of studying and hanging out together, the rest of the kids would come back from school, we would work together all afternoon and in the evenings I would listen to them sing in their language and usually do a bit more studying or chatting. The older teenagers were my favourite because they had such depth. They had to grow up way before they should have, but as a result they have turned into these amazing human beings with an enormous amount of strength and maturity.
My Last Night’s Thoughts: The director said he has never cried so hard or laughed as hard as he did here. He has never felt so alive and yet so dead at the same time and never so helpful and yet so hopeless.I cannot think of a better way to summarize my experience here. I have seen so much happiness on these children’s faces as well as a delight and an eagerness to learn, be cared for and to have a bit of attention. Really, a big thing that these kids want is to have people who care about them.
One of the guys said he was sad that I was leaving because not many people sit with them and care about them. I sat with these people every single day. I taught them, I listened to them and loved just being with them joking around and having fun. I am not sure if they will remember me for the rest of their lives but there is no way I will ever forget them during mine.
I never want to forget the feeling I have today of giving and of love. I know that I am meant to be on this earth to give and that is my true “calling.” Real struggle allows true love and happiness to bloom; superficial and material things are not what is most important in life. If at any time I start to feel down on myself for the type of day I am having or for my troubles, I will try to remember that no matter how bad my day is going, someone else is having a worse one.
I want to remember to have the courage to walk off the beaten path, to remember that what I have is more than enough and to remember that giving is truly more gratifying than receiving. I want to remember to follow my heart down the path it leads me no matter how strange or untraveled.
In the summer, I set my alarm for 4:30AM to get up and get ready for a photo shoot. Briar from Epic Events asked me to be a part of the shoot for a feature in the beautiful Heirloom Magazine. As we swatted away mosquitos in the early morning and stepped on dewy grass, the sun began to rise and with the stunning decorations and flowers, the vision of the photo shoot started to unfold. A few months later, and we were given this beautiful spread from the magazine:
I learned a few new design tricks that day:
– Artichokes look beautiful in bouquets.
– A black sequined table cloth can add an understated bit of glamour to a rustic event.
– I love lanterns.
– Hanging flowers are just so beautiful.
– Take the hair elastic off your wrist before a photo shoot.
Now for the beautiful video that Modern Romance Productions put together featuring my song that I cowrote and recorded, “Caught in Between”:
I know I have said this before in my blogs, but sometimes I pinch myself because of the great job I have. Do not get me wrong, even though everything looks so elegant and beautiful, this job is very demanding and has its downfalls. I am often stressed and overwhelmed with what has yet to happen and what isn’t happening. But at the end of the day, I do what I love. Nothing beats a beautiful Vancouver wedding except a beautiful Vancouver wedding with a harpist… : )
Each year the tour starts again and I ask myself that very simple question. That question is magnified when looked at it through the scope of 20 years which is how long Winter Harp has been around. Director and creator, Lori Pappajohn, who is a dear friend and colleague of mine, celebrated this incredible milestone this year. When she asked me to join Winter Harp eight years ago, the magnitude of being asked to play in such a fantastic group had not yet hit me. Today, I feel fortunate to play in a group that tours and touches thousands of people’s lives every year. I also feel that much of my career as a harpist and being a Vancouver based musician can be credited to my dear friend, Lori Pappajohn.
These two videos give a little example of the magic and beauty created by Winter Harp:
From left, the musicians that are playing on stage: Lauri Lyster (percussion), myself (classical harp), Kim Robertson (Celtic Harp), Lori Pappajohn (Celtic Harp).
From left, the musicians that are playing on stage: Patrick Ball (wire strung harp), myself (classical harp), Kim Robertson (Celtic harp), Lori Pappajohn (Celtic harp).
Throughout the years that I have been with Winter Harp, the group has always had small changes in the musicians on stage which keeps it fresh and fun for both the musicians and the audience. Two years ago, a life long dream of mine came true when Kim Robertson joined the group. I wrote my feelings about this on my Facebook Music Page this past December:
“At 3 years old, I told my parents that I wanted to play the harp. Without knowing where to begin, my mom bought me a CD by Kim Robertson. As time passed by, she become an idol of mine. Twenty four years later, I have had the honour and pleasure of sharing the stage with this incredible woman for two tours. I am so thankful the universe has given me this opportunity and has landed me exactly where I feel I am supposed to be. I will continue to pinch myself as the tour rolls along.”
Happy 2014 to all! I wish you much health, happiness and beautiful music.
One of the great perks of the new and updated website is that people get the chance to see what I do and what I am all about. I have had many people in my life tell me that my personality has come through on the website. I have also had many people whom I have never met say that the website has an inviting feel and that they felt like they got to know me just from reading the pages.
Finding my webpage is actually what brought me and one of my recent clients, Rodrozen Designs together. They recently had a breakfast event where people in their industry were invited into their store; I played and sang as the guests mingled. If you need any kind of design or renovation for your home, office and beyond, these are your guys! They have beautiful art work as well.
I absolutely love performing in this setting. I get to share my singing and the beautiful music of the harp, all while playing a diverse set of music and meeting many new people . I am doing what I love and am so happy that my website is helping to spread the word all around Vancouver! To keep it accessible for everyone I try to incorporate: standards, some pop stuff, a little classical and even some of my own songs. People are always surprised by the versatility of my music and the many places in which I play: events, fundraisers, parties and beyond. They are often taken aback by the fact that I am not a stuffy musician but I bring humour and fun to my gigs.
The wonderful photographer for these shots was Mark Whitehead from gettheshot. He has some amazing photos!
If you know of someone or a company having an event, this kind of music would definitely add that “je ne sais quoi” feel as harp music fills the air! Need a musician for hire?- contact me!
One of my dad’s first memories of me as a baby was bringing me back to the farm in the car seat of his brand new Versatile 800 tractor in a blinding snow storm. Needless to say, I have grown up on equipment and it gives me as much peace and serenity as playing my harp does.
A lot has changed in the the last 27 years. The old Versatile was retired years ago and now so much of the equipment is run electronically; even the steering! My favourite piece of equipment to drive is the combine which is in the picture below.
The day that we harvested that field, the wheat was not quite ready to go so I dragged my harp into the field with my mom and sister and we took this video.
Hours on the farm are more intense than most people imagine. Not only is the whole family involved in working on the farm, but the hours are long and the work is unpredictable; you never know when a rain cloud will come your way or the field will be ready to harvest. Still, nothing beats a meal in the field which makes it all worthwhile.
Every year, it pains me to come back to Vancouver and leave the farm but once I get back, I do love my life here as I am so fortunate to be a working harpist in this beautiful city. Don’t worry though, I always go back!
Once upon a time, there was an eleven year old little girl who played her harp at her Aunt and Uncle’s wedding. She then got asked to play at another wedding, then another and soon she found that she was playing at weddings every weekend and she loved it.
Fast-forward 15 years and that little girl is all grown up and is still enjoying playing the harp at beautiful Vancouver weddings.
Here are pictures by the lovely Denise Lin at a recent Vancouver wedding:
Vancouver Wedding Tips:
1. Outdoor weddings: Outdoor weddings are beautiful but one must have a Plan B in case of rain. I will share with you a secret: In all the years of playing at weddings, I have only played at ONE wedding where we got rained out. Maybe I am a bride’s lucky charm! 😉
2.The dress:When a bride-to-be tries on her dress, she should also pause for one moment and figure out if she can comfortably move in it.If there is one day where a girl should be free to throw her arms in the air, jump up in excitement, or wipe a tear from her eye, this is it!
3. Wedding Planner:The wedding is about the couple but the couple would not be the individuals they are if it were not for the love and support of family and friends.If there are enough details, do everyone a favor and get professional help the day of so everyone can relax and enjoy.
4. Hire a harpist!:There are very few instruments that spell “romance” as much as the harp.Treat yourself and your guests to beautiful, live music that will create that unforgettable touch on the day of your dreams.
5 things to know about a Vancouver harpist:
1. Don’t touch my harp.
2. I said, don’t touch my harp.
3. Are you listening? Don’t touch my… thank you…
4. I can move my harp by myself.
5. No, I don’t wish I played the flute.
When I was in high school, and I was deciding “what am I going to be when I grow up”, I knew that the harp was going to play a big role and I knew I was the type of person who needed to have my hands in many different pies in order to stay inspired.Little did I know that becoming a professional harpist would keep me occupied in so many different ways.My job is so diverse as I mainly travel around the Lower Mainland, but especially in Vancouver while playing my harp.I have met amazing people, I get to hear their stories, I get to be creative musically and visually, I get to do the business side of things and most importantly, I love what I do.
Another great perk about being a musician is that I get to work from home quite often.I love being home and having that freedom.
All in all, I wouldn’t change it for the world.I love my job.I love being a harpist.I love Vancouver.And I love my harp.
I am so happy to finally have it up and running and that you are here visiting! My team and I worked really hard to create a site that is comprehensible, has lots of information, and is fun. I wanted to construct a website that people could check out on a regular basis and stay connected to my music, videos, information and to me.
When it came to designing the site, my designer Jessica and I tried to figure out how it would be possible to put all the information that needed to be here in the most efficient way. Then we needed to figure out what the look of the whole thing was going to be. I had been told that the most successful people in blogging and social media are the ones who stayed most true to themselves. I am IN LOVE with the vintage-shabby-chic look and my house is full of these kinds of pieces. We felt like this look of the website was very much that and I loved the beautiful 1930’s inspired floral design. This is what we came up with!
We did a bit of research on other harpists around the world and no one seemed to embrace the fact that the harp is a stunning instrument with class and elegance so we wanted to nail that idea down… with a twist. We were also very inspired by the classic French perfumes hence the logo and the flowers.
A bit about Janelle
Though you may see me dressed up at one of my shows, I am very down to earth; there is more to me than a girl in a gown who plays the harp. I value sillyness, I love to cook, I love being with my friends and family, I love being outside and I appreciate all kinds of art. I believe in equality. I believe that we all have a place on this earth and that no deed is too small. I believe in learning from your mistakes, striving to be a better person every day and I believe that everyone has a responsibility to contribute to this world. I try to play my part by sharing my art and passion with people in hopes that it may make them forget their troubles for that moment or perhaps even feel a little inspired.
I am going to strive to let my art and personality shine on my website and social media so that you may come to it for a laugh, a listen, and maybe even some inspiration.
A HUGE thank you to
Jessica- my designer, friend and neighbour. On her Birthday a couple of months ago, we were sitting with a glass of wine contemplating why work was slow that week and I decided that I needed to revamp my website and SHE was the one who was going to help me! She has been incredibly patient, on the ball, creative and hard working on this project. She made me feel so at ease and inspired. Thank you.
Kara- my sister- She has always been the most supportive and loving sister a girl could ask for. She even flew to Vancouver from Winnipeg to help with the photo shoot. She took some amazing photos and helped me so much. Kara even ran to Whole Foods three separate times to get our treat: Green Goodness Smoothie. She helped edit and gave great ideas along the way. My sister is always so incredibly supportive and loving and I couldn’t ask for a better one. Thank you.
My family- My parents and extended family are so supportive of what I do. I am incredibly lucky to have their love and support. My mom especially, is the one who reads, rereads, edits and gives her input. I am grateful for all that she does! Thank you.
So ladies and gentlemen, I hope you enjoy this website and please come back to visit!