By Hannah Cruz
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Yolanda Kondonassis has always been a dreamer.
“Whatever I was playing I was sort of ‘James in the Giant Peach’ — my imagination was fully engaged,” she said of her childhood. “As I grew older my goals became a little more focused, but I did start thinking what can I do with this? How can I make a difference in this field? And what’s the best route for me to pursue?”
When Kondonassis fell in love with the harp at age nine, she wasn’t thinking about becoming a world-renowned concerto soloist, recitalist and chamber musician.
But one thing led to another, and after years of dreaming and planning, Kondonassis is now the most recorded harpist in the world. This weekend she’s returning to her Oklahoma roots, where she received her start, for both a concert and a book signing.
Raised in Norman, Kondonassis developed her musical talents in high school at Interlochen Arts Academy and in college at Cleveland Institute of Music.
Kondonassis credits her upbringing for much of her talent.
“I think the best thing about Norman was, I was allowed to quietly pursue my dreams and my ambition without some of the anxiety that one might have if they grew up in New York City,” she said. “Sure you can walk down the street to Juilliard and get your lesson, but I believe in having some space.
“Maybe that comes with growing up in the open space of Oklahoma. I believe as a creative person you need some space to just think and imagine. If all your doing is chasing after whatever you think you should be, that can lead to burn out and just general anxiety. For that I am so fortunate to have grown up in Norman.”
Though Kondonassis is celebrating 20 years of recording with her 16th recording “Solo Harp, the Best of Yolanda Kondonassis,” she is still pursuing other avenues of expression by developing a children’s picture book.
“‘Our House is Round’ is devoted to teaching kids, the K-4 age group, about the whys of earth conservation,” she said.
Kondonassis wrote the book after she was unable to find any other children’s book on the subject for her own daughter.
She hopes other caregivers will find the book useful in teaching their own children.
“I find the teacher in me really believes the earlier you expose people to the general idea of things it will seem like second nature,” she said. “It will not seem like ‘Oh gosh, now I have to learn about the science of the planet.’”
Her book can be purchased at online retailers.
For more information on Kondonassis visit www.yolandaharp.com.