Bio and Q&A
DIANE MICHAELS is a professional harpist living in Essex County, NJ. Her career has taken her from Carnegie Hall to the wedding hall (she has played at least 1000 weddings). When not performing or writing, she and her husband make up songs about and for their miniature poodle, Lola.
As a writer, Ms. Michaels has penned program biographies and press materials for classical musicians, and her articles on developing and sustaining a career as a musician have appeared in publications including Harp Column and Allegro.
Ms. Michaels performs with the Orchestra of St. Peter by the Sea and plays tea at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City. She performs at many New York metropolitan hotels and restaurants, including the Plaza Hotel, the Rainbow Room, the Waldorf-Astoria, the Ritz Carlton Hotel on Central Park South, and the Hilton at Short Hills. She has played on Broadway for the show “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” and with orchestras throughout New York and New Jersey in venues including Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. She has also performed with Tony Bennett at Caesar’s Palace in Atlantic City, was a member of the All American College Orchestra at Walt Disney World’s EPCOT Center, and has played aboard the QE2 and the Seven Seas Navigator,
Ms. Michaels is on the roster of Music for all Seasons, a non-profit organization. Through their auspices, she performs at numerous facilities such as hospitals and shelters for victims of domestic abuse. She has toured with the New York Harp Ensemble in the United States and Italy and with the Paulson Harp Ensemble in New Jersey and Ireland. Ms. Michaels was a Masterwork Music and Arts Foundation Young Artist Recitalist and a four-time gold medalist of the United Irish Counties of New York, Inc. Feis. She serves as the Mid Atlantic Regional Director of the American Harp Society. In addition to maintaining a private teaching studio, Ms. Michaels is on the faculty of the Wharton Music Center in Berkeley Heights. She also has published arrangements for harp ensemble and a book for beginning harp students.
Ms. Michaels holds a performance degree from Oberlin College Conservatory of Music where she studied harp with Alice Chalifoux. She attended Interlochen Arts Academy, where she was a student of Joan Holland, and National Music Camp, both in Interlochen, Michigan, the Salzedo Harp Colony in Camden, Maine, and the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin.
Who is Ellen? Ellen is an “emerging adult,” a 27 year-old woman comfortable with the process of establishing her career as a harpist, but who is only beginning to come into her own as a grown-up. She has both a sense a humor and flaws that make her the punch line to jokes she doesn’t mean to tell.
I remember going through the emerging adult phase. The ballast of the responsibility of being an adult barely countered the buoyancy of being young and independent. This duality made it hard for me to believe anyone would or should entrust me with the task of being an actual adult. It was easy to expect that my story would become Ellen’s, but the more I developed Ellen as a character, the less of my DNA remained in her, much to my relief.
Why write a book about a harpist? The world needs more books about harpists. Haha! While writing what I know was a helpful game plan for my first novel, I also embraced pulling back the curtain on the life of a freelance musician. I hope readers unfamiliar with live music will be inspired to hire — and respect — musicians.
What was your inspiration to start (and keep) writing? The first thing I remember writing (I was eight or nine) was a parody of The Night before Christmas, based on Thanksgiving with my relatives. I gave a neatly printed, illustrated copy to my father’s cousin Muriel, who was the host of our holiday dinner. There’s nothing like a ton of praise from relatives to encourage a youngster to continue an activity.
Do you have any talents other than writing that your fans maybe don’t know about? Gauging from the reaction to the release of my first novel by people who know me as a harpist, I think writing is my secret talent. Also, I can cure hiccups.
Will there be more books about Ellen? Yes! I’ve published a short story about the day she met her best friends, Chloe and Gwen. It is available – for free! – to all subscribers to my website. And I have written a novella, Harpists Don’t Dance (currently available for free on wattpad), in which Ellen reflects on two influential crises she weathered as a young harp student. As far as full-length novels, I’ve begun writing book number two, and I have an outline for the third and final novel in the “Ellen” series.