Brenda Dor-Groot is a multifaceted performing harpist and educator. She has classical roots, a passion for the blues, and a taste for pioneering.
Working as a free lance performing harpist and private harp teacher, Brenda is also an avid developer and advocate of new and upcoming directions for the harp, and opportunities for its players.
Equally at home on pedal and lever harp, acoustic and electric, she performs and teaches classical music, blues, jazz & improvisation, and creates ‘deep house’ with a DJ/producer.
Currently based in London, Brenda grew up in The Netherlands and trained as a classical harpist at the conservatoires of Rotterdam and Cologne. Performing highlights include touring as part of the European Union Youth Orchestra and Schleswig Holstein Musik Festival Orchestra in 1999, and playing Ceremony of Carols with the St Paul’s Cathedral Choristers in 2020.
Pioneering as a blues harpist, Brenda aims to create a true role and voice for the harp in blues. Anno 2021, this process of research, learning, teaching, method writing and composing is well on its way. Her composition Bregar’s Guitarp is published in the Wild Strings Jazz & Pop Harp Collection, and listed in the latest Trinity exam syllabus.
In 2007, Brenda co-founded the International Jazz Harp Foundation (JHF) with fellow harpist Sabine Meijers. Together, they succesfully produced jazz harp festivals, ‘Jazz Harp Academy’ short courses and many workshops and jam sessions. The JHF serves as a global network and promotional platform for jazz harp professionals, students and audiences. Brenda was also lead organiser of the first ever UK jazz & pop harp event ‘Wild Strings’ for the UK Harp Association in 2018.
The long story...
Brenda started playing the harp at the age of 7.
At Codarts University of the Arts (then Rotterdams Conservatorium), where she started studying with Teresia Rieu when she was only 13, she developed a very solid base both technically and musically.
After graduating as a Bachelor in Music in 1998, Brenda received a grant to study in Germany with Prof. Helga Storck, where her performance skills and orchestra playing were brought to a higher level. This resulted in winning the 1999 auditions for both the European Union Youth Orchestra, where she played under the baton of Bernard Haitink, and the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival Orchestra, led by Christopher Eschenbach.
She concluded her classical training by returning to Codarts, where she further refined her technique and musical skills under the guidance of Godelieve Schrama.
A collaborator at heart, her work as a classical musician mostly focused on chamber music and choir accompaniment, in the Netherlands and Germany. A highlight since moving to the UK in 2016 was the performing Benjamin Britten's Ceremony of Carols with the St Paul's Cathedral Choristers led by Andrew Carwood, in December 2020.
Since 2005, Brenda is actively involved in the world of jazz harp. Both in playing and in spreading the gospel: together with fellow harpist Sabine Meijers she founded and leads the international Jazz Harp Foundation.
Parallel to her classical music education, she had already made some early escapades to jazz harp by taking lessons with Park Stickney, Deborah Henson-Conant and Carrol McLaughlin, and during her 2 year stay in Boston, USA, in 2002/2003, the jazz & blues bug bit her again and didn't let go.
Her journey continued into the field of free improvisation through the discovery of a strong and intuïtive musical connection with fellow musicians Marieke voor de Wind (bassoon) and Sietse van Gorkom (violin), and working with dancers, visual artists, story tellers and house DJs.
After moving to the UK in 2016, Brenda has further developed her performing and teaching skills in blues and jazz.
As a free lance musician, Brenda has the luxury to be able to integrate all the above mentioned genres into her professional life. At any given time, one might find her performing jazz in a combo, presenting the French impressionists in a recital, accompanying a choir, playing the blues at the corner jam, improvising with a bassoonist and a painter, or grooving with a DJ at a club or event.
Both as a soloist and as a band member, teacher and composer, she is equally at home on the pedal harp and on the lever harp. She plays a Killarney Innisfallen acoustic lever harp, a Camac Baby Blue electric lever harp, and a Salvi Aurora acoustic pedal harp.
Brenda teaches general harp lessons with an emphasis on form awareness and chord knowledge, solid and refined technique and posture. She also teaches specialized blues harp and elemental jazz harp lessons. With London, UK, and the internet ;) as her current home base, she teaches workshops and co-organises jazz harp jam sessions throughout the UK and abroad.
Brenda is an amateur violin and cello player, and mother of two boys whose cello and drum set are happily sharing the music room with her bunch of wood and a lot of strings ;)