When Mary Vannice's daughter wanted to learn how to play the harp 25 years ago, Vannice jumped right in to learn along with her.
"I fell in love with it, and she went off to soccer, cheerleading and other things kids like to do," says Vannice.
Vannice hauls her 100-pound grand classical Venus harp all over the valley, performing at wineries, retirement homes, weddings.
What: Music by harpist Mary Vannice
When: 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29
Where: Deja Vu Bistro in the McCully House, 240 E. California St., Jacksonville
To see a video of Vannice performing, go to www.dailytidings.com/tidingscafe
"I love the resonance of it, and I love the strings," she says. "It just touches me really deeply, I just feel that real strong draw to play."
Every Wednesday, from 9:15 to 11:30 a.m., she plays in the Ashland Community Hospital lobby. She performs mostly jazz standards by composers George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Burt Bacharach.
"At the hospital they just really love it," she says. "I can tell when they sit and just soak in the vibes. Lots of compliments there; that really makes me feel good to feel that exchange."
Her husband, Michael Vannice, a jazz musician himself, does her arrangements.
"He's influenced me quite a bit throughout my life," she says. "We've been together for 20 some years. I was able to really get into jazz; before him, I really wasn't that much into jazz."
For the Tidings Cafe, Vannice played "Welcome," by John Coltrane, and "What the World Needs Now," by Burt Bacharach, in the garden of her Phoenix home. To view the video, go to www.dailytidings.com/tidingscafe.
Harp music is perfect for art galleries and fine dining, Vannice says. She doesn't see herself so much as an entertainer, but as someone who facilitates a certain mood or atmosphere.
"I enjoy being background. I just feel like my music helps with people's conversations keeping them lighthearted," says Vannice. "I like putting out a good vibe."
Vannice's harp has the full range of a piano with pedals that deliver extra tones. She can easily plug it in for amplification as well.
"This is very involved, with the foot pedals, the strings and reading the music," says Vannice,
One of the highlights of her career as a harpist was performing in the Atlantis Jazz Quintet with her husband. "I loved playing with Atlantis. It was like, 'Wow, I'm in a band with my husband,' and I loved improvising," says Vannice. The band is on hiatus now, but Vannice hopes the members can perform together sometime in the near future.
Vannice also works as a sound healer, having received a credential from the Institute for Music, Health and Education founded by Don Campbell in Boulder, Colo.
"I have a credential for advanced tone. I studied the effects of tone on people," says Vannice. "It really gave me a sensitivity to be able to feel and intuit. It's kind of like my husband when he writes my arrangements, he knows what I like and he knows those sounds that really feed into the heart."
Vannice will perform at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, at the Deja Vu Bistro in the McCully House, 240 E. California St., Jacksonville.
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mandy Valencia at firstname.lastname@example.org.