Susan Knapp Thomas

Harp Faculty; Artist Teacher

HCD Music, Instrumental Studies

Hartt Community Division, The Hartt School
F 19

BM, Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester

A well-known and widely respected harpist known for her attentive playing, quick adaptability and musicianship, Susan Knapp Thomas has enjoyed an active performance career with orchestras in both the north and the south. Susan served as Acting Principal Harp for the Hartford Symphony from 2010–14, and has a lengthy relationship with the Hartford Symphony, performing as their featured concerto soloist alongside Principal Flutist Grieg Shearer for Mozart’s Flute and Harp Concerto. She plays regularly for the Rhode Island Philharmonic, is Principal Harpist for the Waterbury Symphony, and performed as harpist for the U.S. Coast Guard Band from 1987–2002. In Florida, she has performed with the Southwest Florida and Palm Beach Symphonies and has served as Acting Principal Harp for Brevard Symphony Orchestra in Melbourne, Florida.

Equally at home in orchestra pits for shows and opera, Thomas has played regularly at the Goodspeed Opera House, in addition to the Bushnell and the Shubert Theaters in Hartford and New Haven, Conn. She has also been a regular at the Florida Grand Opera, and the Vero Beach Opera in Florida.

As a chamber music artist and concerto soloist, Thomas has been featured in concert at The Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, the Trinity College Summer Concert Series, the Elektra Chamber Ensemble's Music Series in Farmington, Conn., performing Handel's Concerto in Bb, and the Saint Saens Fantaisie for Harp and Violin, with violinist Bruna Myftaraj. She has been featured with well-known flutist Brad Garner at the National Flute Convention, and is part of her own flute and harp duo, the Apolline duo, with flutist Jennifer Berman.

Thomas has done regular work for the Frank Sinatra Jr. show. Other backup work includes shows for such notables as Judy Collins, the group "Yes", Earth, Wind and Fire, the Beach Boys, Brian Wilson, Peter Cetera, Johnny Mathis and others. Her recently released CD, Everlasting Sunday, was a finalist considered by the Greater Hartford Arts Council for one of their donor level gifts. She is also recorded on the Opus label.

Thomas is currently Instructor of Harp and Chamber Music Coach for The Hartt School in Hartford, Connecticut.  Ms. Thomas teaches a large, active studio of harp students in both Connecticut and Florida, and is the Director and Founder of the Connecticut Valley Harp Intensive Summer Camp in Simsbury, Connecticut, entering its 8th year. She has served as an Effective Competition Preparation Coach for such national competitions as the Anne Adams Awards, and the Lyon and Healy Awards, and judged the AHS MetroHarp Competition in New York City.  Her students have been multiple prize-winners in both local and national competitions. She is President of the Connecticut Chapter of the American Harp Society.

Thomas is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music, and a student of Eileen Malone, Phyllis Wright, Aristid von Wurtzler, and Barbara Pniewska. 

Teaching Philosophy

  • To inspire a love of all music in my students that I hope will carry them throughout their lives, no matter how large or small the role of the harp becomes for them after they leave their Community Division studies.
  • To make their lessons enjoyable, productive and fun, in order to support the above.
  • To foster support, friendliness, and compatibility within the studio, where students have a safe place of productivity, inspiration, and collaboration with peers who play the same instrument, and share the uniqueness associated with being the only harpist in environment their (school, church, community).
  • To generate understanding about commitment, the love of repertoire and the pursuit excellence through study of the harp.
  • To create regular performance/project goals singular to each student’s needs, which instill and maintain enthusiasm.
  • To give support and assistance to projects presented by students, which they wish to undertake and/or complete, by giving helpful markings/fingerings, suggestions for success, or edits to make orchestral parts easier to learn and perform.