Camille and Kennerly Kitt are identical twins from the Chicago area that both play the harp instrument. During their school years, they shared a variety of interests such as: music, martial arts, swimming, horseback riding, and rifle marksmanship. Not only did they pursue a variety of interests, but they did them all very well, as they are Third Degree Black Belts in Tae Kwon Do and they competed at Junior Olympic swimming events numerous times. After being exposed to the piano at a young age, they showed in interest in the harp, and proceeded to study the instrument throughout school. They studied the harp privately with Faye Seeman (The Conservatory of Music @ Wheaton College) and Judy Loman (principal harpist for the Toronto Symphony) for years. The "Harp Twins", as they are now known professionally, graduated college with a Bachelor of Music - Music Performance: Harp - Summa Cum Laude. Today, the Harp Twins compose, record, and perform a variety of genres on the ancient instrument - everything from Bach to Led Zeppelin. In fact, they enjoy arranging popular, modern rock, and heavy metal songs for the instrument. As young budding professionals, they already have an impressive performance resume which includes: The World Harp Festival in Paraguay, Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Celebration, Luncheon with Mrs. Laura Bush, and many other prestigious engagements. The Harp Twins give back to the community by donating their time as well as performing at benefit functions. I recently corresponded with the Harp Twins.
R.V.B. - As children and taking piano lessons, were you able to blend discipline of learning music along with general fun as a child? Can you describe your childhood neighborhood and friends?
H.T. - It was definitely no trouble for us to take music lessons and have plenty of time for general fun as children. We didn’t really see our piano lessons as a “discipline”, it was just another activity that we enjoyed. Our best friend as kids lived right around the corner from us. We would walk to the corner from our street and she would walk to the corner from her street and we would meet and walk to one of our houses. That way our mom and her mom could keep an eye on us from either direction. We did silly stuff like pretend we were sumo wrestlers (we broke a lamp from that) or dress up in silly costumes and parade around the block with lampshades on our heads carrying the Australian flag (we have no idea where that came from). We had a fort in the top of a shed in her yard and we painted pictures on the walls and wrote our names everywhere! Lol, x2
R.V.B. - As you added more activities to your list of things to do such as: swimming, martial arts, and shooting a rifle along with music, was there a top down priority? Which activity did you really enjoy?
H.T. - We had fun participating in a lot of activities and sports. We were always very active and ambitious and put our whole hearts into everything we did (and still do!). We actually stopped swimming competitively to focus more time on martial arts. We earned our 3rd degree black belts and even taught Tae Kwon Do for a few years. But we eventually had to stop being so active with martial arts to focus on harp. We were occasionally getting injured – which doesn’t work very well with harp! Over time, harp definitely took over as our top passion and priority.
R.V.B. - How did you first get exposed to the harp and what were the circumstances that persuaded you to pursue this instrument over others?
H.T. - We knew someone who played the harp when we were kids and we started playing harp in middle school. We were both really drawn to the beauty of the harp. It’s always seemed like a magical instrument for us. However, it took us a while to convince our mom that we were serious about learning the harp. We had to show that we were serious by earning “harp money” ourselves. We babysat, walked dogs and did other odd jobs to earn the money to buy our first harps, which were pre-owned. We played piano (on a keyboard since we couldn’t afford a piano), when we were kids through high school, but we knew that harp was really the instrument on which we wanted to spend our time.
R.V.B. - Was there any high school musical performances or sports competition that really stood out, and you thoroughly enjoyed?
H.T. - We were involved in theater, which was fun for us. As far as sports, we’ve always been really competitive (but not with each other). When we competed in Tae Kwon Do, tournament organizers always tried to pair us with other people so that we wouldn’t spar each other, but more often than not, we would eventually face off with each other when we won other matches. There were quite a few “ties” called! Haha
R.V.B. - Did you take all lessons and sporting activities collectively - together, or were some of them separate?
H.T. - Our music lessons were separate, but we specifically requested to set aside time at the end of our separate harp lessons to work on duets. Playing together has always been a passion for us. When we were involved in sports as children, we were generally always training together with swimming, riflery, etc.
R.V.B. - How did you enjoy your college experience at the Conservatory of Music at Wheaton College? Any good college stories?
H.T. - Our college experience was good, but we spent the vast majority of our time studying and practicing. We’re type-A personalities, so nothing but the best was ever good enough for us! Hmmm, As far as college stories… we were never able to keep our recital posters up! People would steal them off of the walls and they would sometimes literally be gone within an hour. No one else had that problem with their recital posters! haha We have no idea why people wanted the posters, but we know that some ended up on dorm-room walls. It is kind of funny to look back at that now, but at the time it was frustrating to have to pay for re-printings and spend the time to re-hang our posters.
R.V.B. - How did you make the transition into the professional scene? What was the game plan when you first started?
H.T. - The transition to playing professionally was actually just an extension of what we were doing while in school because we were playing professionally while still in our classical harp studies and accepting paid jobs even then. We think our first “gig” was while we were in high school and we played for an anniversary party. Our pay was a restaurant gift-card and we were thrilled! Haha Before we started our university studies, we sat down and discussed what we would do if we would be guaranteed to succeed at anything. The answer was to perform as a duo. We have followed that dream with our whole hearts and we’re so blessed to have the opportunity to do what we love!
R.V.B. - Being basically classically trained, how did you get exposed to the music of the 60's and 70's? You play a wide variety of classic rock and the heavier stuff. Did your parents have records around the house and did they play instruments also?
H.T. - We’re the only professional musicians in our family and neither of our parents played instruments. Our mom has always listened to a wide variety of music and genres, so that is how we were first exposed to rock and classic rock as kids. When we were kids, we would listen to the classic song “Secret” by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and “Daydream Believer” by The Monkeys again and again! And “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree”, too! We guess we’ve always been old souls.
R.V.B. - "Smoke on the Water" is a great song and it's known as something a beginning guitarist would start with. Did you also tackle this one early? What other older songs did you break out early in the repertoire - building process?
H.T. - "Smoke on the Water" wasn’t one of our earliest arrangements. Since harp is such a different instrument than guitar, songs that would be “beginner” songs on guitar can actually be quite difficult to arrange for harp! This is especially true since we are covering the *entire* song, and not just one instrument’s part. We don’t use backtracks, loops, or overdubs, so every song that we arrange is quite complex. We arrange pieces in quite a “classical” way, which makes the arrangements beautiful, but challenging. We think our first arrangement was “Hey Ya!”. Looking back, it was kind of a funny song to start with, but our mom has always loved that song, so we thought we would give it a try. Another of our earliest arrangements was “Ghost Riders In the Sky” and “Disturbia”. As we’ve progressed in our arranging skills, we have tackled increasingly difficult songs to arrange for harp – like metal songs. It’s really fun for us to challenge the boundaries of what the harp can do.
R.V.B. - Can you describe the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial gig?
H.T. - We had the honor of performing for several events over 2 days to celebrate the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial in Illinois. One event featured President Obama as the featured speaker. When we found out that we had been chosen to perform at the celebration, we were very excited!
H.T. - We generally use the harps that the client requests for their event. We perform equally often on our harps. Sometimes we even perform on both harps for the same event or concert. For festivals or cons, we generally use the electric harps because they’re more portable, but we’ve performed on our acoustic Concert Grand harps outdoors before.
R.V.B. - Is there any difference in the way you play the larger harp as opposed to the electric harp?
H.T. - Yes, our electric harps and acoustic harps are almost like completely different instruments! From the string spacing, to string tension, to size, to pitch range, to changing the pitches of the strings via levers on the electric harps versus pedals on the acoustic harps. Even though the harps are very different, we love them both equally and they both have their own strengths.
R.V.B. - When you released the two albums in 2013, how did you go about picking the songs? Did you have extras that were left off?
H.T. - When we started compiling songs for our first 2 albums, it was really because our fans were requesting actual albums of our music! So, we collected some of our favorite cover recordings and then added a few new ones to the list. There were arrangements that we didn’t include, but we knew not everything would fit onto 2 albums! We just recently released our 3rd cover album, “Harp Attack 2” and it is our first professionally mastered album. We’re currently planning and recording for our “Harp Fantasy 2” album and we’re very excited about that one, too.
R.V.B. - How did you enjoy the World Harp Festival?
H.T. - We had an amazing time performing at the World Harp Festival and then touring in Paraguay! It was wonderful to meet so many wonderful fans in Paraguay and an honor to represent the US at the World Harp Festival.
R.V.B. - Did you take any formal acting lessons?
H.T. - Yes, we took several acting courses at our community college while we were in high school. Our harp teacher thought that acting courses would be a fun way for us to acquire an even better stage presence. We really enjoy acting.
H.t. - We’re not sure when we'll be performing in New York. We currently go where we're hired to perform, so we always ask our fans to request us as a musical guest for a local festival, fair, convention, venue, school, church, university, community college, etc! When we have the resources to schedule our own tour, we will! So we’re always grateful when our fans spread our music to their friends! We post about any public performances on our social media and through our e-newsletter http://camilleandkennerly.fanbridge.com Thank you for this fun interview!
Interview conducted by Robert von Bernewitz
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For more information on The Harp Twins visit their website. http://www.harptwins.com/
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