About Sylvia Woods

About Sylvia Woods

I would like to take this opportunity to give you a bit of background on myself and my business. I have been playing the harp for over 50 years, and have written over 85 books and pieces of sheet music that are used by harp players of all levels. I have been one of the major leaders in the renaissance of interest in the Celtic harp in the past 40 years. I have been on numerous TV and radio shows, including three times on Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion. I've also played on the soundtracks of movies such as Dead Poets Society and Prancer.

My three albums are heard on radio stations throughout the country, and during December you'll often hear my Christmas recordings coming through the sound systems at your local mall or grocery store!

I have performed widely throughout the United States, Canada, the British Isles, and Europe. Everywhere I go, people are interested in harps. They want to know where to find beautiful harp recordings and where to get high-quality instruments. This is the reason why I started my mail order catalog over 30 years ago, bringing the best of the harp world to my customers' homes. Over the years, the catalog has expanded from a 1-page flier, to this website. I've learned to give people what they really want and need to get the most out of their harp experience.

I am proud to announce that in July 2015, I was presented with the coveted Lifetime Achievement Award at the Somerset Harp Festival in Parsippany, New Jersey. You can read more about this award here.

I personally select every item that goes on my website. The items that I choose to sell are definitely the "cream of the crop". I know you'll be pleased with any item that you buy from us, and we give a money-back guarantee if you're not fully satisfied.


Harp Center Store In September of 1992, I opened my first "brick and mortar" store in Glendale, California. At the time, it was the largest harp store in the world. As shown in this photo, we usually had about 50 harps on display, from small lap harps to the large concert orchestra harps, along with hundreds of books, strings, and harp accessories. We offered lessons, workshops, and monthly concerts at this location.

In 2008 we moved to a smaller store in the neighboring town of La Crescenta, and in 2010 I moved the harp showroom to my home. Then, in October 2013 I made the biggest move of all . . . to the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

The harp showroom is now in my home in Lihue, Kauai. Several times a month I get a customer from the mainland or from other countries who stop by to see me while they're here on vacation. Some rent a harp to play while they're here, others buy books or take a harp lesson with me, and many just stop by to say "hi!"


My formal musical education began at about the age of 6 with piano lessons. In 4th grade, I took up the flute and played in school orchestras through junior high. I also learned the guitar, and accompanied singing with the Girl Scouts at summer camp through high school.

My most intensive musical training before the harp was the three years in high school when I was the piano accompanist for the school choirs. Having to play the scales and vocal exercises for the singers taught me a lot about keys, chords, and scales. Learning to read all four vocal lines, as well as the two piano lines all at once, was invaluable training. Of course, I also had to "keep going, no matter what happens," which is an important lesson for any musician.

At the beginning of my second semester at the University of Redlands in Southern California, I walked into the harp room and asked if I could sign up for harp lessons. I had always wanted to play the harp, but had never touched one before. The harp teacher, Marjorie Call, welcomed me with open arms and sat me down at a beautiful concert pedal harp. Thus began my adventure. Little did I know how it would change my life!

I studied harp during my years at Redlands, and took several quarters of harp lessons from Susann McDonald at California State University at Los Angeles after graduation. I loved playing the pedal harp. However, it wasn't until I discovered and purchased a Celtic harp that I felt I had really found MY instrument. And so, ever since then, the Celtic harp has become my life's calling.


Merry BandFrom 1976 through 1979 I toured the U.S., Europe, Great Britain, and Canada with Robin Williamson and His Merry Band and was featured on the group's three albums. It was during this time that I wrote "Teach Yourself to Play the Folk Harp" and began selling harps.

In 1980, I traveled to Ireland and won the prestigious All-Ireland Harp Championship in Buncrana, County Donegal. I was the second American ever to have won this honor.Irish harp school

I was invited back to Buncrana the next two summers to teach a week-long course on the harp to about 20 local children. We borrowed harps from all over Ireland to allow these kids to play the instrument that is the symbol of their country. This photo shows my 1981 harp class.

Since 1980, I have toured as a solo performer giving concerts throughout North America and Europe, as well as in Ireland and Northern Ireland. I have given Chieftainsmany special performances for the American Harp Society and the International Society of Folk Harpers and Craftsmen. I have taught harp workshops and masterclasses throughout the U.S. and Ireland, and have judged numerous harp competitions, including the Guinness World Trophy for the Celtic Harp Competition in Lorient, France.

In January 2003 I was honored to be asked to perform with the legendary Irish band, The Chieftains, for their five California concerts. That was truly an experience of a lifetime! I wrote an article for the American Harp Journal about my experiences. You can read it by clicking the link on the Annals of the Harp Playing with the Chieftans link on the American Harp Society website.


To further promote the folk harp and my own music, I have appeared on many television and radio shows, including three appearances on the ever-popular National Public Radio broadcast A Prairie Home Companion, starring Garrison Keillor.

I have been interviewed on dozens of radio stations throughout the US, England, and Ireland. On September 2, 1982 I was interviewed by Studs Terkel on his WFMT show. You can listen to my 53-minute interview by clicking here.

My three recordings have been played on over 400 radio stations throughout the U.S., frequently prompting listeners to call the station for information about them. The music librarian at KFAC, formerly the major classical radio station in Los Angeles, stated that whenever they played The Harp of Brandiswhiere they received more phone calls requesting information than for any other piece of music. They even had my phone number pasted on the wall next to the phone to give to listeners!

Prancer Dead Poets Society


I have performed on the soundtracks of several major motion pictures, including Dead Poets Society, Prancer, and Only the Lonely under the direction of composer Maurice Jarre. (Mr. Jarre's Academy Award-winning soundtracks have included Lawrence of Arabia and Dr. Zhivago.)


My compositions have been used on several PBS TV shows. I was commissioned to compose and perform the soundtrack for Chicago's Secret Wilderness, produced by WTTW in Chicago.

I also played on episodes of Murder She Wrote, a Rockford Files "Movie of the Week," and a Coca-Cola commercial that was shown extensively on TV during the 1982 Winter Olympics. Soundboard

The Christmas 1998 episode of Homicide included a minute-and-a-half of Hark the Herald Angels Sing from my Three Harps for Christmas, Volume 1 recording. My music has also been used on Hour Magazine, General Hospital, and other TV shows.

Romper Room On October 24, 1983, I was the guest artist on the Los Angeles TV series entitled Soundboard: The Art of the Plucked String, with host, John Schneider. You can see excerpts from this historic glimpse into my past on YouTube.

Here's a fun bit of TV trivia. The March 1981 episode of the Los Angeles version of Romper Room that featured my harp and me was nominated for a local Emmy Award! Unfortunately, our episode didn't win. But, as they always say: "it was an honor just to be nominated!"


The Sylvia Woods Harp Center store was featured on KNBC, Los Angeles in a TV spot which was later aired on NBC affiliates all over the U.S. The Harp Center was also featured on a USA-TV small business show, "First Business".

We were spotlighted on the Southern California PBS Show Visiting, with Huell Howser, during the summer of 2000. This 30- minute show is still re-run frequently in the Los Angeles area. The most recent airing that we are aware of was in August 2018.

And, (although this is perhaps a dubious honor), in September 2001 our store was featured on an episode of the infamous Blind Date TV show.


In the November/December 1999 issue of The Harp Column magazine, I was named one of the 45 "Most Influential Harp Forces of the 20th Century," along with people such as Harpo Marx! Their citation reads in part:

"There is perhaps no single person within the Celtic harp community that has inspired so many as Sylvia Woods . . . effectively launching the folk harp boom of the 70s, 80s and even 90s. . . . While Woods may not herself have created the folk harp industry, she certainly can be credited with having shaped and molded it to its present form."


about My first album was my original composition, The Harp of Brandiswhiere: A Suite for Celtic Harp, which has been acclaimed as an important contribution to contemporary harp literature. Through the instrumental music, my harp tells the story of the harp player Brandiswhiere, a legendary hero who saves the world with the music of his harp. The recording won numerous awards including "Best Fantasy Album" by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films, and several Popular Music Awards by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). Several chapters of the American Harp Society have performed this suite as their major concert of the year. It has even been choreographed for local productions in the U.S. and Europe.

3 Harps #2 My two other recordings, Three Harps for Christmas, Volumes 1 and 2, feature traditional Christmas carols from all over the world. These recordings are played extensively by radio stations all over the country during December, and can also be heard coming through the sound systems of malls, stores, and even elevators!

I have also played on the recordings of many other prominent musicians such as Jimmy Messina, Al Stewart, Joemy Wilson (11 recordings), Kay Gardener, Aeoleus, Artie Traum and Pat Alger, and Caswell Carnahan.


Teach Yourself Due to a lack of teaching material and music specifically written for the folk harp, I began writing harp books in 1978. I now have completed over 85 books and pieces of sheet music for harp, including Teach Yourself to Play the Folk Harp which is the standard beginning book throughout the US and many other countries.

My other harp music books include arrangements of Christmas carols and Chanukah music, Scottish and Irish songs and dance tunes, wedding and church music, selections of Andrew Lloyd Webber, John Denver, and Lennon and McCartney tunes, music from Walt Disney movies, and many more.

Hawaii map


In October 2013, I moved myself and my business to the Hawaiian island of Kauai. If you're going to be vacationing on the island, feel free to make an appointment to come and see the harps, take a lesson with me, or just go out to lunch. I'd love to meet you. Aloha!



Even if you're not on Kauai, you can still take lessons with me . . . from the comfort of your own home! I offer harp lessons through Skype and FaceTime to students all over the world. Whether you're a complete beginner, a professional wanting to make your own arrangements, or any level in between, I'll be happy to help you.


One of my major goals in life has been to help get lots of people all over the world playing and enjoying beautiful harp music. I have been working towards this goal for many years now, and am pleased that each year I've seen the number of harp players growing larger and larger. But we still have a long way to go. I promise to continue to help expand the world of the harp, and bring beautiful harp music to more and more people everywhere.