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Official Biography  |  Celtic Band Amy Introduces Herself  |  Beware of Irishmen...

Official Biography, Harpist Amy Kortuem

Amy Kortuem grew up in rural Mankato, Minnesota, and began classical piano training when she was 11 years old. In 1988, Amy received a Celtic harp as a gift from a family friend, an Irishman named Jack McGowan.
It's a gift that has changed her life. Bringing the beautiful music of her harp to as many people as possible has become her passion and purpose.
That gift has also become a thriving business. With four recordings, a music video, and a rich performance history and schedule to her credit, Amy's playing is in high demand.

Amy Kortuem with harp

Amy is known for performing at a wide variety of events and also for varied audiences. Her audiences have included everyone from preschool children and outdoor festival-goers to dignitaries like Mikhail Gorbachev.
She has performed at such highly attended events as the Minnesota Irish Fair in St. Paul, Minnesota, and the Rock Bend Folk Festival in St. Peter, Minnesota. She also owns a Lyon & Healy concert harp and has performed with the Mankato Symphony Orchestra as well as other orchestral groups, and she has also accompanied well-known vocal chamber ensembles such as Magnum Chorum and Musicorum.
Amy also produces and performs concerts of her own. The CD release concert for her album "The Harp Her Soul Required" drew 800 people, and her annual To Drive the Cold Winter Away holiday benefit concerts and St. Patrick's Day shows are highly attended, drawing hundreds of people from throughout the region. Her concerts have received rave reviews and have raised funds to benefit local charities. Amy also keeps a busy schedule giving presentations and playing for weddings and special events.
Her first recording, "The Light and the Lady," was recorded with her concert and Celtic harps at the beautiful Our Lady of Good Counsel Chapel in Mankato. Her second, "The Harp Her Soul Required," is a recording of traditional Irish music on her Celtic harp and is dedicated to Jack McGowan. "All Hayle to the Days" features carols and songs to drive the cold winter away. “The Month of January” includes Amy’s original music plus her favorite traditional Irish songs. Her DVD “I Heard a Bird Sing” features a music video of the title song plus a 30-minute interview with Amy about her creative process and sources of inspiration.

Amy has been awarded two Prairie Lakes Arts Council Individual Artist Grants, a Prairie Lakes Regional Arts Council Artist Fellowship Grant and a Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant to further her music studies and career.
Contact Amy at for more information about playing at your special event, for concert information or simply to keep in touch.

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Celtic Band

I formed my Celtic band in 2003 after inviting some talented musician friends to play Celtic music with me at a performance — and the audience raved. The group's chemistry, unique style and performances of my arrangements of traditional Irish and Celtic music have continued to enthrall.

Celtic band in 2003 playing for audience

The band includes me on harp and vocals, Martha Lindberg on recorders and whistles, Sam Lawrence on bodhran and Marti Ryan on violin. Much to the delight of audiences, we're often joined by award-winning Irish step dancer Megan Maloney.

My Celtic Band and I are available to perform at concerts, festivals and private functions. Please contact me and I'll be happy to talk with you about bringing our music to your event.

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Amy Introduces Herself

Many people only see the “harpist” side of me and often wonder what goes on in my life outside of my harp career.

The truth is, the harp is so much a part of me that I rarely feel separate from it. I’m always watching, listening, paying attention and thinking about how I can translate what I’m discovering into music.

The harp fulfills me musically and also personally. It’s my soul mate, my friend and comfort. It gives voice to my emotions and spirituality. The harp allows me to be exactly who I am, to play the music I love, to express my innermost wonderings and wanderings.

I do, however, have so many interests that provide me with inspiration for my musical endeavors. In addition to being a harpist, I’m a writer and have always been compelled to put ideas into words. I’m a voracious reader and am constantly researching ideas and information and filing them away to be used someday.

My huge backyard garden is place of rejuvenation and inspiration, where I can be involved in the seasons and connected to the earth. I also love to knit and find it’s very similar process to creating music — taking single threads or ideas and putting them together into a new creation.

I’m always listening to music and my musical tastes are pretty eclectic — you might find Johnny Cash, Loreena McKennitt, Glenn Gould and Sequentia on my CD changer at the same time.

And, because I have three cats, I’m always vacuuming. It may not be very glamorous at home, but it’s a creative and fulfilling life.

There usually comes a point in an interview or a conversation about my music when I’m asked, “So, have you arrived? Is this it?” And I always answer that I hope not! I want to continue growing, learning,composing new music, creating new arrangements and new sounds, playing in new places, reaching new people. For me, it’s all about using music as the connecting point with others.

It’s wonderful to be able to act authentically and to have people respond to me so favorably. I feel  successful on a very deep level. But I also have big dreams and big goals of creating more recordings, performing more concerts, reaching even more people. In my own way, I know I will play for the world. I can’t wait to see what happens along the way.

~ Amy

p.s. More of my story is featured on my DVD, “I Heard a Bird Sing.”

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"Beware of Irishmen offering camel rides"

I’m often asked how I became interested in playing the harp. My response?
Beware of Irishmen offering camel rides...

 I’ve known Jack McGowan since I was 10 years old. Throughout the years, I have been roped into many of Jack’s adventurous antics — such as camping in a snowbank on his farm with the youth group one January and helping him make huge bell chimes out of old oxygen tanks — and have had many long conversations with him and his wife Diann about the meaning of life (aided by whiskey and the ritual bowl of popcorn).
So I should have known that something was in the works when Jack called me that Sunday morning in September 1988, asking me to join him and his family at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. He just had to show me something, he said.
“Something” turned out to be a camel standing in a ring in the center of the Festival, and Jack was paying for a ride. I was stunned enough to get onto the camel’s back, but was far from speechless. While the camel and I lurched around the ring and Jack howled with laughter, I ranted at him for getting me out of bed on a Sunday morning for a camel ride. I fumed as he led me away from the camel and only when we reached Dick and Sally Anderson’s Woodsong Harps booth was I finally quiet. Sally sat me down behind a harp and Dick placed my fingers on the strings. “You only live once,” Jack said. “Let’s learn how to play.” Even after that camel ride, how could I say no?
So Jack bought a beautiful walnut Woodsong Fleurette 33-string harp and Sylvia Woods’ Teach Yourself To Play The Folk Harp book. We agreed to trade the harp every week to practice. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the instrument, and my week’s turn at the harp had turned into three, then four. When Jack called one evening, I assumed it was to ask for the harp back. Instead he told me he had bought another harp for himself — and that I could keep the one I had.
It’s a gift that still amazes and humbles me. A true Irish mystic, Jack had a knowing that the harp was exactly what my heart desired and what my soul required. He generously and joyfully led me to my life’s purpose of making beautiful music for people. And with that gift, I gratefully and with much love dedicate "The Harp Her Soul Required" to him.
“Thanks, Jack.” ~ Amy

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