With a pet bird on his shoulder inside his South Reno home, Jeremy Keppelmann, 14, was practicing for his April 1 and 3 performances with the Reno Philharmonic when RN&R sat down to talk with him. The young harpist played a stupor-inducing third movement of Handel’s Concerto in B-flat Major after this interview. His CD, Jeremy Keppelmann: Harp Solos and Concertos, was produced by Tanglewood Productions and is available by emailing his father, Ed, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So this is your first performance with the Reno Phil. How did that come about?
Well, I was renting a harp to this woman and her daughter, and she knew Barry Jekowsky [music director of the Reno Philharmonic], and she said we should get together. We met about a year-and-a half ago, and he likes to focus on youth, and then I guess he set up the performance.
What will you be playing?
I’ll be playing Handel’s Concerto in B-flat Major.
Can you tell me a bit about the piece?
Well, the composer is George Frideric Handel, and it was written in the baroque period. It’s a very flowery style of writing. There’re lots of notes, lots of ornamentation. It’s very grand and elegant. It’s before Mozart and Beethoven.
Do you like baroque more than other styles?
I like baroque because there’s a lot of room for interpretation. The person who’s playing the baroque piece can add in their own ornamentation and add little touches that are unique to their style.
How long have you been playing?
Why the harp?
You know, I don’t know for sure. I think it was like a dream that I had. I’d never seen a harp. No one in our family played the harp, and I just knew I wanted to play the harp. When we finally went to see a harpist, I don’t remember it being a surprise to me. I don’t remember it being something like, “Oh, wow, that’s cool.” I just sort of knew that that’s how it was supposed to be all along.
Do you remember who it was you heard?
I heard Beverly Colgan. She’s a harpist with the Reno Phil. I heard her play at Bartley Ranch. She and her husband do harp and vibes. It was really nice.
So did you say, “Mom, Dad, I want to learn to play the harp"?
Yeah, I told them when I was five. They sort of kind of ignored me, and were like, “Well, harp, that’s kind of big …”
Does your family play, or are you the only musician here?
My mom used to play piano and violin. My sister plays harp and piano, and my brother plays piano and violin. And my dad’s a math professor.
Is it too early to know if this is what you want to do with your life?
Yeah, there’s lots of things. I love physics, science and architecture. And then I’m also on a swim team. I love swimming. Then, probably piano teacher, concert harpist, composer, teacher.
So you also play piano?
Yeah, when I was five, I started piano.
What do your friends think about you playing the harp?
Harp is so unique, so it’s easy to be distinguished with the harp. But most kids I talk to think it’s cool they know someone who plays the harp because you don’t come across it that much.