Meet Philadelphia’s Top String Duo: Q&A with the Harvey String Ensemble

Mar. 22, 2017

Whether it’s performing, teaching, or composing, the Harvey sisters have taken the world of strings in Philadelphia by storm. Read on for more about how this talented pair got started and what motivates them to continue their craft.

 

When and how did you get into playing the strings?

Myanna: My mom played the violin, so I heard her playing a lot when I was young. When I was five, I wanted to play the violin.

Cassia: Our mom is a violinist and when we switched from private to public school, she was quite excited that we would have the opportunity to study instruments. We didn’t quite know what all the fuss was about, I picked cello, and was instantly in love with my instrument.

What or who were your early influencers? Who is currently your biggest inspiration?

Myanna: My parents and my teacher, Estelle Kerner, had a lot to do with my earliest perceptions of the music world. I loved all the stories about composers and violinists of the past. My favorite performer now is Frank Peter Zimmermann. I’m inspired by how fearless he is on stage.

Cassia: My favorite cellist by far is Truls Mork. But I also tend to be inspired by artists in other disciplines. Musicians such as Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, and Joan Baez are tremendously inspiring for how they built their careers and for their artistic courage. The longer I do this, the more acutely I am aware of just how much courage it takes to go onstage and create music for an audience, over and over.

“The longer I do this, the more acutely I am aware of just how much courage it takes to go onstage and create music for an audience, over and over.”

What do you personally consider to be the pivotal moments in your artistic career?

Cassia and Myanna: We had been doing a lot of teaching and playing, but not necessarily playing together. There was one performance at the Ethical Society of Philadelphia where Myanna and I performed as a duo for the first time in several years. We played the famous Passacaglia by Handel-Halvorsen, and although it was kind of a scary piece to make a comeback with, it was tremendous fun, it went well, and it kind of catapulted us back into duo playing.

What has been the main challenges as artists?

Myanna: It can be difficult to juggle performing, teaching, and arranging, and not work 23 hours a day!

Cassia: I feel pulled in a thousand directions, by students, by audiences, by the customers who buy my music books. I think the greatest challenge is making sure I am not just performing for others, but actually taking joy in what I do. There are moments of tremendous beauty in being a musician and it is easy to miss them and just rush on to the next performance or gig. But the exquisite experiences are there and we just have to be aware of them and live in those moments.

What single performance has been the most memorable for you? 

Myanna and Cassia: Our last performance with Philadelphia classical guitarist Duane Large, who passed away from cancer two months later. We didn’t know it would be the last, but it was a wonderful performance and a true artistic collaboration.

 

What advice would you give to aspiring musicians and composers?

Myanna: Prepare to work harder than you can imagine, but also know that it can be a wonderful job.

Cassia: Strip away any artifice and create something that is truly yours. Never worry about what other people think; just make music that you love to listen to.

“Prepare to work harder than you can imagine, but also know that it can be a wonderful job”.

What venue(s) do you dream to play at?

Myanna and Cassia: Most classical musicians would say Carnegie Hall, but we’re playing there in two weeks! So, I would say, any beautiful historic building with sunlight streaming in and clear acoustics. We tend to love playing in old churches and houses with audiences that are as excited as we are about the atmosphere.

What are your favorite hobbies?

Myanna: I love cooking and drawing. I wish I had a little more time for them!

Cassia: Yeah, cooking. It’s the only thing we have time for, and it’s necessary to live, so it’s probably the best hobby for a musician.

What is the go-to Philly spot for food?

Myanna: I love Fuji Mountain for sushi!

Cassia: My latest passion is Dizengoff’s hummus; somehow I love every variety they come up with.

 

For more from Myanna and Cassia, check them out here!

 

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