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My Christian life: An incredible harp-playing journey

Using music to soothe spirits, praise God, and share the gospel.

“Sing to the Lord with grateful praise; make music to our God on the harp” (Psalm 147:7).

The Bible contains many references to the harp, and Elaine Stindt, who began playing the harp as an adult, has been blessed to serve God and his people musically with this ancient instrument for the past 31 years. She calls it “my incredible harp-playing journey” and says, laughing, that after all, “Life begins at 40!”

Getting started

Music has always been a big part of this cheerful Christian’s life, although she says that at first “it was singing, not playing an instrument with lots of strings.” Born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota, Elaine attended Mt. Zion, a small WELS congregation, with her parents. “Being part of church music was a part of my fiber and breath,” she says.

With her voice as her instrument, Elaine sang in numerous choirs, including a madrigal group. Over the years, she also directed adult church choirs and children’s singing groups and organized a brass ensemble—until the harp came into her life.

It was 1990, and Elaine was attending a choral music workshop at a local college when, during a break, she wandered into another area. “I heard the most profound music coming from around the corner. To my astonishment, it was a young girl playing a harp,” she says. Elaine went home and announced to her husband, Richard, that she wished to pursue this instrument.

Elaine Stindt,harpistElaine recalls that her mother, a church organist, once stated that “there was no such thing as can’t.” That remained with her. “Learning a new instrument did not seem beyond my ability,” she says, even as an adult.

Elaine contacted MacPhail School of Music in Minneapolis and began studying with Kathy Kienzle, Minnesota Orchestra’s principal harpist. “Having a top-notch teacher can develop abilities in you that you never knew could be possible,” says Elaine. She rented a small harp to ensure harp playing was truly something she wished to do, but by the third year of playing, she was ready to purchase her own pedal harp.

Another major factor in Elaine’s harp playing journey was her husband, Richard. “Because he was such a loving husband, he gave me his full caring and financial support. There has never been a stumbling block or interference with this music ministry,” she says. Elaine met Richard, a native of St. Peter, Minnesota, through a Twin Cities WELS singles’ group. Due to childhood polio, Richard, now home in heaven since 2011, needed crutches and leg braces to get around. “Without his support, including the invention of a clever van harp transport lift for my vehicle, my harp playing would never have been possible,” she says.

Expanding her ministry

Elaine’s interest in and talent with the harp expanded into an entire music ministry at Redeemer, Maple Grove, and Cross of Christ, Coon Rapids, her two most recent home congregations. She’s accompanied the Cantabile Singers, the Northeast Orchestra, the Woodbury Chorus and Orchestra, the North Suburban Community Band, and the Lutheran Chorale of Milwaukee. As a member of the Minnesota Chapter of the American Harp Society and former chapter secretary and editor, she helps encourage established and young harpists. Elaine was even featured in the Minneapolis Star Tribune for beginning a musical instrument as an adult.

Elaine Stindt,harpistElaine’s musical ministry is not without its stories. There was the winter wedding at Como Conservatory in St. Paul with a snowstorm “so bad that the governor actually closed down the state and asked everyone to stay home.” In the interest of safety, Elaine and the flautist canceled and returned the couple’s money, but “the couple was from Alaska, so they had no problem getting to the venue.” The marriage, if not the music, went on!

As David’s harp soothed Saul, one of the biggest blessings of Elaine’s musical ministry comes from the hours she and her harp voluntarily provide peaceful music for troubled souls. Elaine says playing at senior residences is “always a delight! These dear people may not always be in touch with today, however, when you play a familiar song from their past, their eyes light up and they chime in.”

Along with musical friends on vocals, flute, violin, piano, accordion, and handbells—and the expert editing skills of her husband—Elaine created five CDs of Christmas carols, hymns, Broadway favorites, “semi-classical and just plain relaxing music with lovely melodies.” Moments with Jesus, a CD of devotions read by local pastors with music by Elaine’s harp and friends, was produced in cooperation with Northwestern Publishing House. This recording offers inspiring devotions for people with vision loss or for busy families on the go.

Elaine also has a special passion for encouraging future musicians any way she can. She’s always eager to talk to anyone interested in her harp after a Lenten service or other performance. She’s given harp demonstrations to grade school students, and she encourages young people to consider this lifelong commitment “that leads to many fulfilling opportunities and keeps your thinking cap tightly on!” She also has tips for those struggling with stage fright, assuring musicians that some nervousness is normal. Elaine manages it by envisioning herself someplace else. “Putting my focus on the music and how I would like it to be played is more important than being nervous,” she says.

Elaine Stindt harpistCounting her blessings

When asked if she ever wished she’d played a different instrument, Elaine answers with an enthusiastic yes. “I would have liked to have played the violin as my grandfather did. When
I rented a violin a few years ago, my bowing was good, however, when I went to wrap my left hand into position, I found I had too much arthritis in the wrists. Perhaps there will be a chance in heaven to play the violin.”

In blessing others, Elaine herself is blessed. “I find playing and learning new music is especially good for keeping the brain engaged.” She also cites the blessings of an “inner ability to use my imagination when approaching music.” Elaine often arranges music herself “to fit the harp.”
Elaine hopes to play “as long as the Lord gives me the ability to move my harp, and my hands are limber enough to pluck the strings. I feel God must really love music. He has so many wonderful songs and new ones yet to come and the musicians to play these treasure-filled chests of melodies. My life has received more blessings than I have ever given.”

As one of the couples whose wedding was graced with Elaine’s music and as a church musician who frequently works with her, I wholeheartedly agree that Elaine’s music and Elaine herself are both beautiful, uplifting gifts of God. For 31 years, Elaine has been blessed to serve the Lord and others, all to the glory of God. What an incredible harp-playing journey!

“Praise the Lord. Praise him with the harp and lyre. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord” (Psalm 150:1,3,6).

Hear Elaine’s harp music from her album “Harp praises”: 

“Jesus loves me”

“Joyful, joyful we adore thee”

Author: Ann Ponath
Volume 108, Number 7
Issue: July 2021

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Ann M. Ponath

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