Campus News

The pursuit of harpyness: Assistant lives for art through her work and music

Some people truly know what they enjoy in life, and for Tracie Brown, it’s involvement in the arts.

Not only does Brown work in the UGA Performing Arts Center, but she is also a musician, and an accomplished one at that.

Brown, assistant to the director of the Office of Performing Arts, fills numerous administrative responsibilities at UGA. 

“I do the paperwork so that everyone else can spend their time on programming and promoting our seven series, dealing with the artists and managing our facilities,” she said. “It’s not over until the paperwork is done.”

In addition to work, Brown also participates in the arts as a harpist. She won the 2006 National Scottish Harp Championship held at the Stone Mountain Highland Games in Atlanta. Competitors were evaluated on Scottish style and ornamentation, arrangements, and knowledge of the history and tradition of the music as well as technical harp skills. She is a two-time winner of the national title, having won the championship previously in 1987, and in 1985 she placed third in the All-Ireland Harp Competition in Listowel, County Kerry.

Brown is self-taught on the harp, although she had the usual childhood piano lessons and studied piano with Ralph Votapek at Michigan State University, where she majored in math. She enjoys combining contemporary arrangement with Renaissance and medieval music and traditional tunes, and brings a special energy to her playing of dance music through many years of study and performance of historical and traditional dance.

In addition to competing, Brown has played for several bands and recorded a CD. About 10 years ago, she laid down tracks with Connemara, a female trio out of Washington, D.C., but said that it has been too long since her last recording. 

“I need to get back in the studio. This year I’ll be working on a solo recording,” she said.

Today, she plays with the Athens Celtic outfit Banish Misfortune, which took first prize in the 2003 Battle of the Bands downtown. 

“We went down to Tasty World and cranked up the music. We played it loud and fast and people were on their feet, jumping up and down, stomping, jigging and clapping,” she said.

With all of her involvement in the arts, Brown exhibits a deep commitment to music, finding time every day to pluck out melodies on one of her seven harps.

 “I find that no matter how hectic my day is, I can put in at least 20 minutes of practice,” she said.  “I practice in 20 minute segments and often switch between harps. My gut-strung medieval and Renaissance reproductions are very different from my modern Celtic harps with their nylon or carbon fiber strings.”

She plans to play in Atlanta for National Tartan Day in April, and will appear in concert and at several festivals in the year to come.