Strings of the heart
January 12, 2012
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- When Twyla Eddins was 4 years old she heard a song on the radio she thought was pretty. She walked over to the piano and began to search out the keys to play it.
And so began Eddins' musical career.
Since then Eddins has traveled the world, performing in castles and cruise ships for 25 years. The Army spouse's travels have now led her to Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Eddins has studied a variety of instruments including the guitar, piano, accordion, organ and the clarinet. While studying the violin at the University of North Texas, Eddins learned of a woman who had a harp available. Eddins rented the harp for the summer and fell in love with the challenging instrument.
"It's not only very elegant and regal, but it stands alone as a solo instrument," Eddins said.
The grand concert pedal harp has 40 to 48 strings and seven pedals, with three positions on each pedal. There are 21 ways Eddins positions her feet, always moving while she plays the harp.
When she grad-uated from college, Eddins took a regular six-night-a-week gig playing the harp at a French hotel restaurant in Dallas. After six years she was ready for a change of scenery, a place more appropriate for the harp.
"Dallas doesn't have any castles and the harp belongs in castles," she said.
With her puppy in tow, Eddins bought a one-way ticket to Europe with no plan of what to do when she got there. On her flight to Frankfurt, Germany, Eddins ran into a German woman she knew from the Dallas area. She and her husband were moving back to Germany and offered Eddins a place to stay. From there Eddins worked to promote her name and book performances.
In Germany Eddins performed at conventions, U.S. military banquets, at tea time and in castles. During her early years in Europe she also worked a temporary job on a U.S. military base where she met her husband, Sgt. Maj. Richard E. Worthy. The couple was married in 1990.
Worthy took on a new role as Eddins' assistant, helping her haul her harp to her engagements, which was not a simple task.
"To move the harp on a cart with rollers on cobblestones and up mountains is not so easy," Eddins said. "Ask my husband; he has been very faithful in moving that harp in places that are just incredible."
If a castle had an elevator, there was usually only room in it for the 80-pound, bulky instrument and one person. Fortress castles are typically on mountains with roads made of cobblestones.
"I see now why they said, 'You're the first harpist we've ever had,'" Eddins said.
Eddins was grateful for the experience to play in a venue among authentic shields, knives and armor. Her performances led to opportunities to perform for royalty in England and a chance to play on the cruise ship circuit that took her all over the world.
Eddins lived in Europe for 23 years and during that time Worthy was deployed often. As is the case for many military families, Eddins had the added challenge of trying to maintain a music career despite the permanent change of stations. In 2008 the couple moved to Fort Riley, Kan., where Eddins lived for 15 months while her husband served a yearlong deployment to Iraq. While in Kansas, Eddins took a break from the harp. Last year Eddins and her husband moved to JBLM where she is working to promote her business again.
"Every time you move it's like starting a business all over," she said. "I've decided if I love it so much, then it's worth making all this effort to network and start this business up all over again."
During the holiday Eddins performed at festivals in Tacoma and in the Tri-Cities. She also performed in the rotunda of the Tacoma Mall during the peak of the shopping season. Eddins has opportunities to perform at a local church she attends in Lakewood where she also sells her six CDs, two of which she made last year.
There are still times when Eddins receives emails asking her to perform at a special engagement at castles in Europe. While it is difficult to say no, she is very humbled and grateful she had the opportunities abroad.
Eddins' husband is again deployed, this time to Afghanistan, but she has plenty to keep her busy as she updates her website, practices, networks and books performances. She has also started to look into working with wounded Soldiers, using her music as a healer.
"I think it's really important to look forward and not back," she said. "I'm hopeful and excited about what the New Year is going to bring."
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