Trudging the streets of Washington, D.C. to study with the city youth orchestra left Rashida Jolley little time to partake in many of the other after-school pleasures that her friends enjoyed. “I almost quit because playing Harp was considered nerdy,” she says. “I got teased a lot.”
But today, she plays for 30,000 screaming fans at every stop on Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball Tour. It is confirmation that her thousands of hours of classical training have paid off—big time.
Few harpists ever envision touring the world with one of the music industry’s top rock bands. Jolley tells EBONY how she did it.
HOW DID YOU CHOOSE THE HARP? My mom chose for me. She knew all our instruments. It was love at first sight the moment I laid eyes on that harp. I started studying classical music at 10 [and] continued studying in college.
WHAT DO YOU DO ON TOUR? I’m playing harp onstage for most of the Monster Ball arrangements. On tour days I completely focus on the show. I’m not on a vacation. I do a little sightseeing if there’s time [because] you never know if you’re going to come back [to a particular city]. There is a part where I get to come out and do a little bit of classical. It’s incredible.
ANY ADVICE FOR YOUNG MUSICIANS? You have to come up with your own version, develop your own style. You have to add a new element. I never thought about combining singing and playing the harp until after college. It’s not just about sitting down practicing your instrument, it’s about going out there networking and knowing everything is possible if you believe and put the hard work behind it.
— KENNETH BOSSARD