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'Principally Harps' at Bel Air Church April 18 features NHHS grad

'Principally Harps' at Bel Air Church April 18 features NHHS grad
(submitted photo, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

North Harford High School graduate Mindy Dalmas Cutcher, principal harpist with the Pennsylvania Ballet Orchestra, will return to Harford County April 18 for a program called "Principally Harps!"

Cutcher, whose parents live in Jarrettsville, partners with Janet Witman, principal harpist with the Kennett Symphony, for a program of stunning adaptations of some of the best-known works from opera, ballet and orchestral repertoire. The performance, to benefit the Center for the Arts, will be held in the sanctuary of Bel Air United Methodist Church, 21 Linwood Ave., Bel Air, on Saturday, April 18 at 7 p.m.

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The concert will be 90 minutes long and will include a question-and-answer session.Tickets are $15 for the general public, $13 for Center for the Arts Members and free for children 12 and younger. To purchase tickets, visit the Events page on http://www.harfordcfa.org. All ticket proceeds benefit the Center for the Arts.

Cutcher, who graduated from North Harford in 1986, hasn't played in Harford County for about 25 years, she said recently from her home outside Philadelphia. A friend of her parents heard her play in the Philadelphia area then contacted the Center for the Arts to see if it could book a performance in Harford County.

"It's great because I think there are lot of people will know the connection with my family," Cutcher said. "They'll be excited because it's a concert they can see locally. It gives them the opportunity to hear me play. Plenty of people from my childhood, whether it be church, school or neighbors, get to hear not just me but my duo."

Cutcher said she wanted to play the harp for many years. When she bugged her parents, and they said no, Cutcher had to pick a band instrument.

"So I picked flute and started playing at Jarrettsville Elementary School, I started in band," she said.

But she still wanted to play the harp and finally, she said, when she was 12, her parents, Jim and Linda Dalmas, got her lessons at Peabody Prep.

Nearly 35 years later, she's still playing and is passionate about it.

"You can make music with other people and I find that really fun, that I can be doing something different all the time, playing different things all the time," she said. "Life is really varied – I teach, I perform and perform in a lot of different settings. "It's interesting that way."

Cutcher said the harp sounds good even when someone is playing the wrong notes.

"It's just a beautiful instrument. I don't know if it's just sound that attracted me, but I like the look. It's really cool and different," she said.

Cutcher has a lot of students – adults and children – and it's excited to see them get excited about playing.

"Every time I'm teaching a new person, they come into the room and say 'wow.' They're so excited, and I remember that excitement from when I started," she said.

The feedback from performing is also excited, no matter what type of performance it is. She did a lecture at a tea recently and the audience was so excited and engaged.

"They were so enthusiastic, I got enthusiastic," she said. "I made their day so they made mine. Sometimes you feed off the audience."

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"We are honored to welcome world-renowned musicians like Mindy and Janet to perform here in Harford County," Center for the Arts CEO Kathy Smith said. "We believe that Harford County residents should not have to travel into the city to take in cultural experiences of the highest artistic caliber. The center's mission is to create a performance space where exceptional programs like this will be available for the community to enjoy close to home."

Taught by world renowned Alice Chalifoux at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Cutcher received her bachelor of music in harp performance. While still a student, Cutcher had already gained national exposure when she made her network television debut on NBC's "The Tonight Show."

Cutcher has performed at numerous festivals, including the Chautauqua Institute, the Ohio Light Opera Company, the National Orchestral Institute in College Park and the Salzedo Harp Colony in Camden, Maine.

Winner of the Baltimore Youth Concerto Competition at age 17, Cutcher was later a finalist in the 1991 Baltimore Symphony Concerto Competition. Her academic honors include membership in Pi Kappa Lambda, the national music honor society.

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