Constance Uejio, Principal Harp
Question & Answer
How did you choose your instrument?
My father had mentioned, since I was about 2-3 years old, that the harp was such an interesting instrument. Wouldn’t I like to play it one day? My uncle is an organist and frequently worked with a harpist (my future teacher!) at his church, so we had that connection too. So, from the time I was 3 years old, I wanted to play the harp. Piano was a way to get to the harp, as my 1st teacher, Dorothy Knauss, would not take a harp student without several years of piano lessons.
Best part about being an orchestral musician in the HSO?
I have always wanted to be an orchestra musician, as I LOVE the music we can all make together–it’s so rewarding and fills me with joy! We have so many fine musicians in the orchestra, and have had so many in the 34 years I’ve been Principal Harpist.
Who is your favorite composer?
For orchestral repertoire, I love the French composers–Berlioz, Faure, Ravel, Debussy, Grandjany. Also a consistently fine composer for the harp was Gustav Mahler.
When was the career of music chosen?
Actually, I never remember wanting to be anything other than a musician. I started piano lessons in 2nd grade and harp lessons in 7th grade. In 8th grade, I had my 1st professional “harp gig”! By that point, I’d already done a lot of accompanying on piano of choirs in school and at church.
What are your activities, hobbies, interests, outside of music?
My husband, Glenn, & I love to spend time with our children and their families, all on the Mainland now; we enjoy visiting my mother and extended family in Pennsylvania, traveling to the Canadian Rockies, cruises to Alaska, reading, and watching TV.
Other than performances with the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra, where can we catch you performing around town?
I play for private events, like weddings and parties, also funerals, frequently at Central Union Church and occasionally with Chamber Music Hawaii.
Constance performing in our season finale concert, June 2015.
More About Constance Ueji
Constance was born and raised in Pennsylvania and her parents are Dorace and the late Rev. Marvin Harding. She began her musical training with piano in 2nd grade with her uncle, Emerson Harding. When the family moved to Reading, PA, piano studies continued with Ruth Kitzmiller Snyder. She soloed on piano with the Reading Symphony as an 11-year-old, playing a movement of Haydn’s “Concerto in D Major”.
Since the age of 3 Connie had been interested in the harp; in 7th grade her parents cashed in their insurance policies to buy Connie her 1st harp–a rebuilt Lyon & Healy Model 17 made in Chicago in the 1920’s. Her first teacher was Dorothy Knauss of Allentown, PA (there was no harp teacher in Reading!). During high school Connie also continued with her piano studies and accompanied many choirs in the Pennsylvania area. Harp continued to be her focus, though, as 16-year-old Connie again soloed with the Reading Symphony, playing a movement of the Dittersdorf “Concerto for Harp”. She also performed with the Allentown Band, the Reading Pops Orchestra, at churches, with various choirs, chamber ensembles, etc.
Upon graduation from Exeter High School, Connie attended the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, where her teacher was Eileen Malone. Connie was awarded the Performer’s Certificate upon graduation from Eastman.
She has performed as 2nd harpist with the Rochester Philharmonic with her teacher, the Buffalo Philharmonic under Michael Tilson Thomas, the Syracuse Symphony, and as Principal Harpist with the Northeast Pennsylvania Philharmonic and other orchestras in Upstate New York. Connie was selected to have several summers of private study with Marcel Grandjany, the internationally-renowned concert artist. He was the eminent head of the harp department at the Juilliard School in NYC from 1938 until his death in 1975.
In 1978, Connie and the family (husband Glenn and children Rebecca and Steven at that time) moved to Glenn’s home town of Honolulu, Hawai’i. Connie continued with music-making as 2nd harpist with the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra and performing with various groups around the state. Kirk was born in 1980 and the following year Connie won the Principal Harp position with the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra. She will begin her 35th season as Principal Harpist with the new entity, The Hawai’i Symphony Orchestra, in the fall.
All 3 children are happily married and living in various places around the United States. There are also 3 grand-daughters! Glenn is busy moving the harps “hither and yon” and volunteering with hospice at 2 nursing homes. Besides her role as a symphony musician, Connie teaches harp privately, is the Assistant Director of Music Ministries at Central Union Church and does freelance solo/ chamber music work on the harp, piano, and organ.