Mary BircherLecturer, Harp
Area of Focus: Strings
Mary Bircher has performed as principal harpist of the Omaha Symphony and the Omaha Symphony Chamber Orchestra since 1981. On numerous occasions, she has been featured as soloist with the Omaha Symphony and has been praised by the Omaha World Herald for her “truly virtuoso and seemingly effortless performance.” She has performed with the Baltimore Symphony, the Grand Teton Music Festival, the Des Moines Metro Opera and the Colorado Music Festival. Ms. Bircher is an active freelance performer, creatively exploring all types of music in a wide variety of venues. As a Certified Clinical Musician, she plays regularly at the Josie Harper Hospice House and at Omaha Children’s Hospital. Ms. Bircher collaborates with her husband, Omaha Symphony trumpet player Craig Bircher, sharing in the joy of providing music for numerous weddings and special events each year.
An enthusiastic and respected teacher, Ms. Bircher enjoys working with students of all ages and abilities. She is currently an adjunct faculty member at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Glenn Korff School of Music and Creighton University, as well as a clinician at the Midwest Harp Festival in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Ms. Bircher has recorded a platinum album Mannheim Steamroller Christmas and gold album Fresh Aire Christmas with American Gramaphone Records, selling over 1,000,000 copies and over 500,000 copies respectively. She has also recorded with Summit Records on The Complete Brass Works of Paul Hindemith, and recorded three albums for Bircher Music; Simple Gifts with flutist Willis Ann Ross, and Music for Ceremonies and Celebrations and A Royal Celebration with trumpet player Craig Bircher. In July of 2002, Ms. Bircher was invited to perform as a member of the Salzedo Harp Ensemble at the World Harp Congress in Geneva, Switzerland.
A native of Richmond, VA, Ms. Bircher began playing harp in the Richmond, Virginia Public Schools harp program when she was in the fifth grade. Ms. Bircher is a student of renowned teachers Jeanne Chalifoux and Alice Chalifoux, and a graduate of the Peabody Institute of Music of the Johns Hopkins University, where she completed her Bachelor of Music degree in harp performance. Additionally, she spent six wonderful summers studying at the Salzedo Harp Colony in Camden, Maine.
What do you enjoy the most about being on the faculty at the Glenn Korff School of Music?
Bircher: The thing I enjoy the most is experiencing the excitement of the students as they learn, discover and grow as musicians. It is really thrilling to be a part of this transformation! I also love seeing the students bond together as they support one another, celebrating each other’s successes and learning together through the challenges. And, there is nothing more meaningful and profound than seeing students gain the confidence and skills to freely express themselves through music.
What do you want others to know about the Glenn Korff School of Music?
Bircher: The Glenn Korff School of Music is a serious music school with dedicated and energized faculty. I am very humbled and proud to be a part of this group of excellent faculty.
What are you most proud of in the area you work for the Glenn Korff School of Music?
Bircher: I am proud of being a part of building a harp program at UNL. Thanks to a generous donor and the wonderful support of Dr. Ruiz and the department, we have two beautiful new Lyon and Healy concert grand harps for our students to play. I am very proud to hear our harp students playing in the ensembles and to see them contributing to all aspects of life at UNL.
What do you like to do outside of the Glenn Korff School of Music?
Bircher: I play in the Omaha Symphony as a full-time core member of the orchestra. The schedule can be demanding, but I have always been captivated by the wonderful sound colors and rhythmic vitality of the orchestra, so this has been a dream job for me. I also love playing my harp at Omaha Children’s Hospital and the UNMC Buffett Cancer Center, using harp music to help create a healing environment in healthcare facilities.
Anything else you would like to add?
Bircher: I am married to trumpet player Craig Bircher, and I feel very fortunate to have a life partner who is also a musician. We understand and support each other’s musical lives, and we both share the same crazy schedules! We have 2 children who are both in graduate school on the east coast, working towards PhD’s, our son in engineering and our daughter bio-physics. I love being out in nature, walking and hiking, and also enjoy swimming, reading, knitting, and watching the Great British baking show. (And wishing I could bake all those wonderful cakes)