Anna DeLoi is a homeschool graduate and harpist. Her love of music, which started at the young age of three, has inspired a passion for arts education and reform. She has been heard across the Berkshires and outer Boston region. We sat down with Anna to talk about her musical talents and her first year at the College.
So, Anna you’re a harpist? How did that begin?
I’ve wanted to play the harp for as long as I could remember, its kind of a family legend that when I was a really little kid, that I used to bug my parents all the time saying, “I’m gonna be a harpist when I grow up, so you guys have to get me a harp.” [This was] when I was four or five years old, and I honestly have no idea why that is, because my family members aren’t really classical musicians, so we didn’t really go to the symphony or anything. So I don’t know if I saw one on T.V. or whatever, but I was really into it and my parents thought I was crazy, because it’s really hard to find a harp and harp teachers. But once I was nine, they realized I wasn’t gonna give it up and were like, “fine, we’ll try to find you a harp teacher.” And once I started it was just a straight path and I started getting really serious about it.
And you play it here? Did you bring your harp?
Yeah, I brought my harp. It’s really big as you would imagine. Williams is really cool, because they gave me my own practice room in the music building to keep it locked in. Otherwise it’s really a pain to move it around places. But, yeah I play it in the Berkshire Symphony, I play it in the student symphony and a chamber group and anything else the music program is putting on that they need a harpist for.
And what’s it like playing the harp?
You sit down to play it, and you hold it back against your shoulder. It doesn’t feel heavy on your shoulder, but it’s definitely heavy to pick up. The one time that I tried to move my harp out of the music building – never again – I wanted to take it to a concert in Thompson Chapel and that hill that leads up from the Paresky area to Thompson chapel is pretty steep. I’m wheeling my harp on a dolly. And I get half way up the hill and realize that I just can’t push it up anymore, and it’s starting to fall back on me. So I start freaking out. And then these two guys come out of nowhere and they can see that I’m hyperventilating and they rush in and take the harp and they’re like, “don’t worry, we’ll help you.” They pushed it up the rest of the hill and brought it in. I still really have no idea who they were, they were just really cryptically like, “when you think of the Williams wrestling team, think fondly.” So I was like, okay, you guys are legit my real heroes. Williams wrestling team, I am your biggest fan.
And that practicing paid off, you recently one a solo award, right?
Yeah, well the Berkshire Symphony has a soloist competition, so anyone on any instrument, any year can audition with a concerto. They picked three winners this year, and the winners play that solo with the orchestra in the spring concert. So, I’m going to play it this spring, and a couple of other freshman won too.
Why were you homeschooled?
So I spent a lot of time practicing. It’s actually part of the reason why I chose to stay homeschooled. I didn’t start homeschooling because of the harp, but it is a big reason why I stuck with it. My brother ended up going to high school, and I never did that because I figured that if I went to regular school, my music would suffer a bunch. So for most of middle school and high school I practiced five-ish hours a day, and I performed a lot, because I had a lot of flexibility to go places and go to rehearsals. I studied at a music conservatory in Boston that had a prep-division for high school kids. I studied there and played with their orchestras and various ensembles and then a variety of other ensembles in Boston: the greater Boston University Symphony Orchestra and the New Hampshire Phillics. Bascially any ensembles that let a random high schooler play with them.
So you are in the Students for Educational Reform group. Where does this interest come from?
Yeah, that’s a really valid question. But I joined mostly because I am really passionate about education in general and I did a lot of music education type stuff in high school. I worked in a Boston public elementary school for most of high school, in Mattapan, which is a pretty disadvantaged neighborhood in Boston. I am really passionate about arts education, which I think is maybe the career path I am headed towards. From working in this school, I got a glimpse of educational inequality that I had never experienced first hand or thought about and then I started teaching at this elementary school, where the kids don’t have crayons in kindergarten. So it’s something that I witnessed in high school, and then I came here and realized, “hey, I can help fight against that.”
So what else have you done here on campus?
Well I also do some education stuff in the neighboring elementary schools, because I did that in high school. I just love being around kids as much as possible. For Winter Study I taught at Greylock Elementary School. It was an independent Winter Study project, I worked with the music teacher there.
What was that like?
It was great. It was awesome. I went through the Psych department to set it up, because it wasn’t a thing. I went to the Center for Learning in Action and they were like, “If you talk to these people, we’ll try to find a place to put you.” It was awesome. I actually brought my harp in once, into this second-grade class I was mainly working with, and literally every class in the school started gravitating towards the classroom to see what this weird thing was in their school. By the time I had finished the lesson there were kindergarteners and first-graders pouring into the room, trying to see what it was.
So what would you say about the different stigmas and stereotypes about homeschooling?
Yeah, well most of them aren’t true. Some of them are, at least for me they were. Like doing your schoolwork in your pajamas all the time. That’s a legit thing. I could sleep really late in high school and then just like sit around in my pajamas and do my work for most of the day, which was really prime. But a lot of the other [stereotypes] are definitely not true. Hopefully I have developed some social skills, and you still definitely have friends and you meet new people. But that’s like definitely one of the weird questions you get when you’re home schooled.