1) Have Dog, Will Travel: Hi there!! I’m Grace Browning, proud mama of rescue pup, Annie Browning, who was recently named a finalist for Rochester’s Best Downtown Dog!! We’ve traveled almost everywhere together in the big harp-mobile (thank you, Honda Pilot!) from Texas to Santa Fe, and NYC for the first time just this past weekend! While home in Rochester, we frequent our favorite downtown coffee shops (Fuego, Java’s, Cafe Sol), enjoy regular visits to the High Falls, and we can be found wearing spirited costumes on occasion!!
2) #RPOActive: Next month, I’ll be competing in my first EVER sprint triathlon with RPO friends Rebecca Gilbert (team leader and principal flute ) and Brad Louis (new percussionist and champion dog walker!) We’ve all been fitness buddies this year and we’d love to add more friends to the team if anyone’s interested! (Click here to register).
3) Reaching Out and Giving Back: In addition to performing, my favorite thing is to bring music to new audiences, whether it’s through learning an instrument, getting inside the head of a composer, or simply finding a way to access the beauty and joy in the music. In addition to being a seasoned teaching artist, I am also a coach for the RPYO harp section (youth orchestra is the best!!!) and Suzuki-trained harp instructor! While living in Dallas, I maintained a growing studio of 14 amazing students and conducted several group classes with harp ensemble every week. One of our favorite games was “Harp Jeopardy”, which is now making its way through classrooms in upstate New York.
4) How I fell in love with music: I didn’t see a symphony concert or opera until I was 13, but I grew up a HUGE Broadway fan, living only an hour outside NYC. Once or twice a year since I was 6, my parents would take me and my five older siblings to see a show – (my first was “Cats”!) – and I was starstruck from the beginning! Although I eventually found myself performing in an orchestra (if not on stage, in the pit below!) I can STILL recite ALL the lines from Rent…(FYI for you karaoke comrades out there!)
5) Passion for Opera: It all started with Puccini’s La Boheme – arguably the most beautiful opera of all time. After years of playing all symphonic rep, I found La Boheme on my stand while a junior at the University of Michigan, and it was by far the most challenging and rewarding ensemble piece I had ever encountered! In a way, playing opera sometimes feels like riding a wild bull…you have to be completely on your toes, flexible to all variables, and be able to follow the singer at any moment.
On top of all that, most operas average 3 to 5 hours in length…so we’re really in the thick of it! Years later I realize how lucky I am to have stumbled into the world of opera — from my first gig with the Dallas Opera, summer seasons with the Santa Fe Opera, and the amazing opportunity to play with the Metropolitan Opera on occasion. I’m so grateful that opera is part of the rich RPO tradition as well, as it has the power to reach audiences in a deeper way and to incorporate some of the world’s best repertoire and timeless stories. So looking forward to playing the amazing American opera next season, Mother of Us All!!
6) Downtown ROC Dining: I always enjoy a post-show drink with colleagues to celebrate the end of a great performance! (My go-to bev is a crisp Sauvignon Blanc… anything from New Zealand!) Since I don’t have much time to cook, you can usually find me at my favorite new downtown stop, 80W: a brilliant cozy-meets-chic restaurant in the heart of downtown…feels like home, but there’s no cooking or clean-up!! Highlights of their menu include lobster shooters, BBQ duck nachos (yes, that is a real thing), and a fantastic wine menu!
7) A Gaggle of Harpists: If you thought one harp was already a lot, just imagine hearing a herd of them!! This week I finished playing the opera Siegfried with the Metropolitan Opera, which is scored not one…not two…but SIX HARPS…and a whole lot of other instruments packed into the pit! When it comes to playing with other harps, I also perform regularly with the Dallas Harp Quartet – a group of four then-Texas-based harpists who came together for two seasons of community outreach concerts and recording projects in the South West.
Thank you so much for reading and for being a part of the RPO family. It’s been an unforgettable first year in the Flower City and I’m so grateful to be a member of this beautiful, supportive community of music-lovers! We welcome your continued support as we approach our season-end fundraising challenge, ending on June 30th, in which all contributions will make DOUBLE the impact up to $300K 🤩 Visit rpo.org/donate to make your donation today.
Keep in touch and feel free to follow me and Annie on our adventures this summer via instagram!
Grace Browning, Principal Harp