Harp captures teenager's heart

Budding musician Sydney Tooley from musical family

Budding musician Sydney Tooley from musical family

November 10, 2006|by ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN - Sydney Tooley, 13, started taking harp lessons because her mother wouldn't let her play the drums.

She listened to a tape of harp music and decided the harp was a pretty instrument, she said.

Sydney, 13, started playing the classical instrument in August and by Christmas was performing concerts for the candlelight tour of historic churches in Frederick, Md. She is performing again this year for visitors to Frederick's historic churches.

Sydney also is one of 15 harpists in the Tri-State Harp Ensemble directed by Sally Lay that will be featured Saturday in a concert at Hagerstown Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Before concerts, Sydney practices in her family's living room for an hour every day if she is nervous, she said.

When she was younger, Sydney learned to play music by ear but she now has to concentrate on following sheet music for her harp lessons, she said.


"Performing is a serious thing. People are there to hear a performance. They have some expectations," said Sydney's mother, Melynie Tooley.

Sydney is the third generation in a musical family. Her father, Richard Tooley, sings tenor and recorded a classical music CD. Melynie Tooley grew up singing in Nashville, Tenn.

Sydney's maternal grandmother, Melba Tooley, yodeled and performed bluegrass music locally with the Pleasant Valley Pickers.

Sydney plays the harp for church functions at the Smithsburg Valley Seventh-day Adventist Church with her sister, Courtney, 8, who plays the flute. Their brother, Ryker, 12, plays the baritone.

The three are homeschooled by their mother and grandfather, Paul Tooley Sr.

When Sydney doesn't want to practice the harp, her parents tell her that if she doesn't practice, she can't visit her horse, Kadee. Sydney took riding lessons for two years and got Kadee in April.

Sydney can aspire to be both a cowgirl and a classical musician, her mother said.

"I can't stand to be away from my horse," Sydney said.

Sydney also reads mystery novels and collects old books and animals. The family has two dogs, three cats, fish, a lizard and a rabbit. Sydney also has written a few plays and writes for Pulse, The Herald-Mail's teen section.

If You Go:

What: Tri-State Harp Ensemble concert

Where: Hagerstown Seventh-day Adventist Church

When: Saturday, 6 p.m.

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