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Children have been learning to read sheet music, sing, and play recorders in their performing arts classes in grade school for many years. Considering their malleability and receptiveness at that age, it grants the perfect opportunity to unlock new, unfamiliar passions and interests in young aspirational minds. When Mariea Antoinette’s music teacher brought a harpist to perform for their class, she was instantly touched by the instrument and was sold on becoming a master harp player. That is precisely what she did, earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music and harp performance. She has performed for President Barack Obama, been featured with chart-topping pop and soul groups, prestigious symphonies and festivals worldwide, but most importantly, with considerations for Grammy nominations in multiple categories, the Billboard-charting Antoinette has never let the classical confines expected of the harp keep her from creating her own signature sound. She infuses her work with influences from R&B, soul, jazz, and funk to create music that reflects her personality in a way that makes the harp much hipper and cooler than it was ever intended.

Her latest single, “So Amazing,” perfectly embodies her unique musical expression. Her harp-conducive cover of the classic hit from R&B legend Luther Vandross is utterly breathtaking, with her gentle and meticulous playing over the celestial backing instrumental. The story behind the song is part of what makes it even more special. Performing “So Amazing” at a wedding, Antoinette received a grand applause once she was done playing the bride to the altar. It was a clear sign that her “Amazing” arrangement was destined to be shared with international audiences!

Antoinette’s artistry carries over visually too. On the one hand, she’s playing in an open field with flowers and a rolling landscape, roses draped around her harp, adorned in a beautiful flowing red bedazzled dress. On the other hand, as the video progresses, she struts boldly in a neon yellow top and fluorescent pink leggings. With her custom-made mini-harp strapped around her, she finishes the song at the base of the majestic staircase. Mariea is simply beaming with joy and fulfillment with every touch of her harp from beginning to end of this sophisticated, cinematic music video. Replete in her sartorial elegance and charm, she sells audiences with her passion and undeniable gift as an accomplished musician.

Mariea Antoinette

How does your harp playing stray from the unspoken confines expected of a harpist? What styles and musicians influence your music? 

Having been classically trained, I have a very solid foundation in understanding what I can and cannot do on the harp with contemporary/popular music chord structures and progressions. That combined with growing up being exposed to gospel, soul, jazz, and R&B as a young girl, I instinctively know how to navigate outside of the traditional confines of the harp and what songs allow me that flexibility. A huge influence on me was ground-breaking harpist Dorothy Ashby, Alice Coltrane, Stevie Wonder, and Earth, Wind & Fire.

In what ways have your personal and musical experiences helped you shape your own unique sound? Why has it been so important to you to offer a new voice to the harp?

I think my life experience as a Black woman in America deeply informs the way I approached the harp. Even when I was studying harp theory in grad school, in the back of my mind I was always thinking how I could bring my own unique ‘vibe’ to the instrument. Playing classical music is very ‘inside the box’ and I’m an ‘outside the box’ kind of person so I always knew I would find a way to make the instrument bend to my will. It was important to me to show that a Black person could master a musical instrument that we typically have not been associated with and more importantly I wanted little Black girls to see what ‘could be’ if they had the desire and determination… no limitations on their dreams! 

What is your proudest moment as an artist to date?

That’s easy but there are two moments … one is being asked to play for First Lady Michelle Obama at an exclusive charity/fundraising event in Southern California and the second was the very first time I took the stage at a major jazz festival with my ‘own’ band “Soulful Arkestra” and we kicked ass!  

Tell us about your latest single release, “So Amazing”? How did the Luther Vandross hit resonate and connect with you, and how do you hope audiences receive your version of it? 

I was asked to play at a wedding and I consulted with the bride in advance as to what artists she was most fond of and Luther was on her list. So being a huge fan of his music already, I started going through his catalog and narrowed it down to 2-3 songs that I thought would work well with the harp. When I played it at the ceremony the entire church stood up and gave me a standing ovation… then after I realized that it wasn’t for the bride but for ME I knew I was on to something and absolutely had to record it! 

How did your creative vision play out when shooting the “So Amazing” music video? How does the visual align with your boundary-crossing harp arrangement of the song?

Well… this was my very first official music video and I wanted to do something special that had ‘scale’ and was cinematic in its vision and presentation. Something that would grab the viewer and say “Wow… she really wanted to make a statement!”. And I think we did just that. Plus, I wanted Luther to be proud looking down on me knowing that I coddled his creation with love and respect for his artistic genius! It’s such a lush song and I, therefore, wanted a visually sumptuous surrounding and atmosphere that captured the brilliance of Allan Phillips (my producer) incredible arrangement.

Do you have any other creative projects on the horizon for new and returning fans and followers? 

Yes! Actually, a lot of people don’t realize that I’ve already released three LPs and that this single “So Amazing” is the lead track from my fourth project that Allan and I are currently working on scheduled to be released in Spring 2023. We’re definitely planning to shake things up a bit with this new album and I think it will catch a lot of my current fans pleasantly ‘off guard’ and hopefully bring in a few new ones as well… we’re really going to push the envelope this time around!    

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The post Mariea Antoinette on New Song ‘So Amazing’ appeared first on The Hype Magazine.

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