Press Room

« Press Room Home

Harpist Returns to La Porte for First Friday Concert

March 28, 2017 | Supporting Our Community

The harp is the oldest string instrument in the world, and its music will come to life in the La Porte Hospital Family Chapel on April 7, thanks to local harp player Debra Sawyer. The program will take place at noon, in the hospital’s chapel at 1007 Lincolnway, La Porte. It is free and open to the public.

Sawyer is a new resident of La Porte, but has been playing in the area for many years. In fact, she has been bringing healing sounds to patients since her own 2009 diagnosis of ovarian cancer.

“I discovered other musicians used the harp for its soothing, restful, and analgesic properties in healthcare. In the treatment facility where I would undergo infusion for my cancer, I would play the harp to relax the room. People would fall into a gentle sleep as they were being infused. This lead me to take the Healing Harps program, and I became certified as a clinical musician in 2011,” Sawyer said.

Sawyer has always been a musician at heart. When she was young, she played guitar and sang in rock and folk groups. The harp, she said, came to her in a dream while she was reading about its ancient origins. With a background in art and design, she once owned a corporate communication design firm in the Chicago area before changing her path and obtaining a master’s degree in art education at the Art Institute of Chicago in 2004. She then decided to teach community art, which led her to move to the Michiana area. Sawyer said she learned harp from the masters in Chicago, but her true Celt playing came later, picked up at festivals and conferences.

In 2008, she spent a month in Ireland with harp colleagues, and in 2013, she was invited to join HARPA – a group of eight harpists who had planned six performances all over Norway for a month. The adventure was sponsored by the folk dancing associations of Norway, so it truly was a cultural exchange.

Locally, Sawyer – who just recently moved to La Porte – sings and performs in a group called Ah Tu. They rehearse most Tuesdays at Temple News Agency in La Porte. Ah Tu plays festivals and events, and entertains at senior living and memory care centers around the area. Sawyer also plays as a solo performer and teaches harp to children and adults. For the past year, Sawyer has been a board officer for the School of American Music in Three Oaks, Michigan, and for the past seven years she has been teaching art to IDD adults at the Lubeznik Center for the Arts in Michigan City. Sawyer also sings with the Chancel Choir and performs at their annual Madrigal event at First United Methodist in Michigan City.

For her First Friday in the Chapel concert on April 7, Sawyer will sing and play a mix of traditional Irish, Scottish, American and popular tunes, and talk about the history of this magical instrument.

First Friday in the Chapel is made possible by the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte (HFL), a not-for-profit foundation dedicated to empowering residents to live healthy and well in and around La Porte. HFL is proud to support health and wellness programs and services to achieve the vision of La Porte becoming one of Indiana’s top 10 healthiest communities by 2030. For more information about First Friday in the Chapel performances, please call (219) 325-7633.