Grace Cross is currently pursuing a Doctorate of Musical Arts in harp performance under Kathy Kienzle at the University of Minnesota, exploring psychology’s function in pedagogy and contemporary arts’ role in community engagement programs. Although a relatively new resident of the area, she has already performed with members from the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Minnesota Orchestra.
Invested in promoting present-day narratives and experiences, Cross actively collaborates with up-and-coming composers, having premiered fifteen works, including three chamber works as part of Fifth House Ensemble’s Fresh Inc. Festival and one for solo harp and electronics at SPLICE Institute in the summer of 2019. She provides harp composition seminars, having taught young professionals through private lessons and lectures in person and via video-conferencing throughout the country.
Before relocating to Minneapolis, Cross studied with Yolanda Kondonassis at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she received her Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in harp performance. As an active orchestral and chamber musician, she was principal harpist of the Tuscarawas Philharmonic for three seasons, as well as co-founder of Trio WWP, a group dedicated to exposing diverse audiences to contemporary music through alternative venues, frequently collaborating with Classical Revolution Cleveland. Avidly involved in the greater Cleveland arts scene, she performed in venues such as The Cleveland Orchestra’s Severance Hall and the historic Playhouse Square, acting as the guest principal for numerous ensembles and touring orchestras, like that of the production of The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses. These ensembles included the Akron Symphony Orchestra, BlueWater Chamber Orchestra, and Blue Streak Ensemble, the latter of which she participated in the premiere and recording of Margaret Brouwer’s Voice of the Lake, a commission that provided funding and awareness for the conservation of Lake Erie. Alongside her fellows at the Cleveland Institute of Music, she performed as a featured concerto soloist in a concert series dedicated to the devoted patrons that support and fund the CIM community. Between semesters at CIM, she continued to hone her musicianship through the orchestral and chamber ensembles at the Chautauqua Institution, Eastern Music Festival, and Monteux School and Music Festival.
Equally passionate about teaching, Cross focused the studies of her Masters toward the exploration of psychology within musical pedagogy. The culmination of these pursuits led to an interdepartmental study that analyzes and compares the educational philosophies of prominent CIM faculty and Cleveland Orchestra members with how the mind processes, stores, and retrieves memory. Her primary goal was to find the discrepancies and similarities between the results of psychological studies with the anecdotes passed down through musical training. Pedagogy is often solely established through trial-and-error and passed-down wisdom from master instructors. The study investigated how this type of teaching may be extremely effective through its inadvertent encouragement of the mind’s natural processes and, in contrast, may also limit our progress of improving pedagogical methods by adhering to unchallenged methodologies. The faculty interviewed were highly accomplished performers, as well as educators, emphasizing how their own teaching philosophy lives through their personal growth and success. This project functions as the first of Cross’ tangible pursuits in the area of Music Cognition, which will continue as her research at the University of Minnesota.
Prior to her collegiate studies, she graduated with honors from the Interlochen Arts Academy, student of Joan Holland, after having attended its Arts Camp in the summer of 2013. She hails from the San Francisco Bay Area, where she performed as concerto soloist with the Las Positas College Orchestra and principal harpist of the Oakland Youth Orchestra. Cross’ passion for the instrument began as a four year debate with her dad about whether to pursue harp lessons; she prevailed shortly before her ninth birthday.