Talented teen lone harpist in Youngstown Symphony Youth Orchestra

By Robert Guttersohn



On this city’s north side sits a home filled with testimonies to the talented family living inside, the Clarks.


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Sarah Clark, 15, of Hubbard, Oh. plays the harp.

Linda, the mother, is an artist. Her paintings are scattered in the family’s living room.

Her son, 11-year-old Nathan, plays the saxophone.

The entire living room is a credit to the father, Dan, who constructed the mostly finished extension.

But in the middle of the room, a piano and two harps sit. One afternoon, their daughter, 15-year-old Sarah, plucked at the strings of the taller, more advanced of the two harps. Her fingers glided seamlessly through the vertical strings as if she had picked up the instrument the day she was born.

Yet less than two years ago, Sarah had yet to touch a harp. Come 4 p.m. Sunday, however, she’ll play it on stage at the Edward W. Powers Auditorium as part of the Youngstown Symphony Youth Orchestra.

“I envy people that can play music,” Linda said after listening to her daughter play.

“She cries,” Sarah said, causing her mother to erupt in laughter.

A year and a half ago, when Sarah, now a sophomore at Hubbard High School, decided she wanted to play the harp, the teenager already had learned to play more instruments than most do in a lifetime: the piano, french horn, mellophone and choir bells.

So when she picked up the instrument, she already understood the basics of music. After taking classes under local harpist Kirk Kupensky, she began to play at weddings and funerals.

Linda said when Sarah was 2, she found one of Kupensky’s business cards and decided, for some unexplained reason, to keep it. Thirteen years later, her daughter moved steadily through the ranks of harps. First it was an old Celtic harp with 26 strings. Six months later, she jumped to a folk harp, with 36 strings. Today, she plays Kupensky’s old harp, a 1940 Lyon and Hearly, crafted so elegantly that it could stand alone as a household decoration.

Sarah and her family sent out letters to friends and family to help them purchase the harp.

“Without them, we couldn’t have bought it,” Linda said.

Sarah auditioned in September for her place in the youth symphony. She sat alone with her harp on the expansive Powers Auditorium stage.

“I was really nervous, but as soon as I started playing, it was gone,” Sarah said.

After the symphony selected Sarah, she became the only harpist in the youth symphony this year.

On Sunday, the YSYO will play music from seven countries in the program titled “Music from Around the World,” said Youngstown Symphony Society President Patricia Syak.

After Sunday, Syak said the youth will play two more shows at Powers Auditorium. In March, they will play with the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra for the first time in nine years. Then the YSYO will play on its own again at Powers on

April 29.

Despite the ease at which Sarah learned the harp, Sarah sees herself exercising the other side of her brain as a career.

“I want to be a doctor and scientist,” Sarah said while sitting aside her harp. “And maybe I’ll minor in harp playing.”

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