2016-11-03 / Around Town


Meet Arilyn Mitchell
By Mark Gorman

Kids these days can get a bad rap. The news is often full of negative stories that vilify our young people. But there’s one local teenager who is making the world a better place by creating beautiful music with her harp. Meet Arilyn Mitchell.

For the past two years, the 16-year-old musician has been taking her 47-string pedal harp to Newport Hospital, volunteering to play for those who are in pain. On any given week, she can be found making glorious music at the hospital’s cancer center, at the Vanderbilt rehab unit, or in the atrium.

“I love sharing my music. Chemotherapy or rehabbing is stressful. I like to bring calm to the patients and make people smile. I love knowing that I’ve brought them some happiness,” the young musician said.

Her father is an active duty Navy chief and the family has moved a lot. After stops in Florida and England – where she briefly took up the flute – Arilyn discovered the harp in 2009 during the family’s stay in Nashville.

“My mom and sister play the flute, so I was encouraged to try something different,” she explained.

Similar to the pedal steel guitar, the pedal harp is considered to be an extremely difficult instrument to master. There are seven pedals and each has three positions – flat, natural and sharp – for each note of the scale. It can take a lifetime to perfect the instrument.

The teenager travels to Boston once a week for a lesson and to play in the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. She also goes to New York once a month to study with the principal harpist of the Metropolitan Opera.

On Sundays, Arilyn performs at high tea in the Hotel Viking’s One Bellevue restaurant. Viking director of food and beverage Kevin Thiele has nothing but praise for the young musician. “Arilyn’s music is magical and it’s very entertaining to watch her play her enormous harp. Many children take pictures with her, and if they are lucky, they even get to strum the harp. She is a gem to work with, shows much pride in what she does, and has a great future ahead of her,” he said.

Newport This Week couldn’t agree with Thiele’s assessment more. She is a very special young woman and a gifted performer – definitely someone to watch.

Mark Gorman is a retired high school guidance counselor and guitarist-vocalist who performs locally each week.

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