Retiring with a song in her harp

By Karl WeiselJanuary 28, 2021

1 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Clay School Age Services students enjoy a harp lesson with SAS instructor Valerie Cribbs. (Photo Credit: Photo by Karl Weisel) VIEW ORIGINAL
2 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The harpist and CYS administrative support assistant adds a little musical flavor to the Wiesbaden MWR Headquarters on her last week of work before retirement. (Photo Credit: Photo by Karl Weisel) VIEW ORIGINAL
3 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Valerie Cribbs plays the harp and Nicholas Bottesini the guitar during the Wiesbaden Library's Summer Reading Program. (Photo Credit: Photo by Karl Weisel) VIEW ORIGINAL
4 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Wiesbaden youths get an intro to harp playing from Child and Youth Services' Valerie Cribbs during an Army Community Birthday celebration. (Photo Credit: Photo by Karl Weisel) VIEW ORIGINAL

WIESBADEN, Germany - The garrison’s harpist has left the building.

Valerie Cribbs, a long-time Child and Youth Services employee known for contributing to U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden events and functions with her musical gifts, retired on Jan. 29, 2021.

The CYS administrative support assistant said she was always happy to share her professionally honed harp playing skills with the community.

“This is my way of participating – I do it because it’s fun and I love to laugh,” said Cribbs, who plans to continue teaching harp and seeking new ways to share her talents with other musicians and the public after retiring from government service.

“I loved working with kids. Seeing a child get into something and knowing that the little moments you spend with them is part of their development … that made the job fun and satisfying,” she said.

The Chicago native, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music, played with the Metropolitan Symphony in Minnesota for 14 years while also accompanying choirs, performing at weddings and teaching.

In 2001 she decided to venture to Europe, eventually joining the quartet, Semilla, while continuing to teach and perform at host nation venues.

“I had always wanted to live in Europe, and I had the opportunity in 2001,” said Cribbs.

After working for the Exchange for a year, she landed a job with Wiesbaden Child and Youth Services in 2004. While working as a CYS program assistant at the School Age Center, she pitched the idea of offering harp lessons to children at the center.

“That was just a natural contribution, because I’ve always taught music and I was supported in my idea by management,” she said, adding that the children were extremely receptive and excited to tell their parents.

Cribbs, who began her musical endeavors by learning the saxophone as a child (her father was an accomplished saxophonist), quickly grew frustrated and convinced her parents to let her take harp lessons.

“I didn’t have the patience to learn the saxophone and I wanted to quit. My dad said ‘music is something that will stay with you your entire life and maybe the saxophone isn’t for you – pick another instrument.’ Then my parents said, ‘if harp’s going to be it,’ they would find a way to pay for it. They rented me a harp and I started lessons,” Cribbs explained.

“I see that for a lot of kids many instruments require too much time to start sounding good,” she said. “But harp, like the piano, sounds good right from the start.”

Throughout her time working with Wiesbaden CYS, she consistently volunteered to perform, provide workshops and help enhance the various activities within the garrison. That included performing for various Wiesbaden Library programs, helping make Army Community Service celebrations more festive, playing at holiday events and joining the orchestra at the Amelia Earhart Playhouse. In 2016 she was recognized as the Installation Management Command-Europe’s Best Instrumentalist during the annual Tournament of Plays Awards for her harp playing during the Playhouse’s production of “The Fantasticks.” She has also performed in a wide assortment of host nation concerts and special events.

“Ms. Cribbs was always willing to help out wherever she was needed,” said Petra Rohr, CYS program operations specialist. “Her dependability, unrelenting attention to detail and superb customer friendly service made her an invaluable asset to CYS.”

Rohr added that Cribbs became the “face of CYS” for all new employees who joined the team in her role as administrative assistant/background check administrator for CYS.

“She welcomed each and every one of them with a smile and respect,” said Rohr about the reception new CYS employees received. “Her special harp performances during special events such as Kinderfest, Month of the Military Child and ACS Birthdays were always a highlight.”

School Liaison Officer Peter Witmer said it was a privilege to work with Cribbs, adding, “You quickly learned of her passion for music. … Valerie has been an inspiration to children, instilling and sharing her passion for music. … More than sharing the passion, she helped students learn music for themselves by teaching them to play the harp on beginner harps, purchased specifically to enhance her talent as a teacher.”

She’ll be “greatly missed and long remembered by those she worked with and the youths she inspired,” said Witmer. “Valerie has been a great addition to the CYS admin team where she matched her musical skill with organizational talents.”

Cribbs, age 66, said she had a “humongous mix of emotions” as she neared her last day of work – “sadness, anxious, excited – sad that I won’t see the people I’ve seen every day.”

“I’ve volunteered to come back anytime,” she added. “I’m still Garrison Wiesbaden’s harpist.”