Nashville’s premiere harpist, Kirsten Agresta Copely, represents everything we love about our go-getting Nashville women. With twelve singles spanning the decades from Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac, Radiohead, to Rihanna and Lady Gaga, Copley certainly hustles when it comes to both music and her career as an Associate Professor of Harp at Vanderbilt University Blair School of Music. Her album became available May 31st on all digital platforms, and it’s one you won’t want to miss!
Since we at the Edit love nothing more than highlighting the women in our community who are kicking ass, we couldn’t be more thrilled to share our interview with Ms. Copley with you all.
The Nashville Edit: Tell us a bit about your upcoming release, The Covers Album.
Kirsten Agresta Copely: The album consists of twelve hit singles, spanning the decades from Tom Petty and Fleetwood Mac to Radiohead, Rihanna, and Lady Gaga. I’ve been arranging pop/rock songs for years to perform at featured events like the US Open Tennis Championships and my steady Afternoon Tea gig at the St. Regis Hotel in NYC. Many people have asked if I had recordings of the songs, and since I’ve been successfully selling my arrangements online to other harpists, it seemed like the perfect time to record a new album.
TNE: As an Associate Professor of Harp at Vanderbilt University Blair School of Music (with an active performing schedule Nationwide), you have quite the filled calendar. How do you balance it all?
KAC: Both my husband and I are musicians, so we understand each other’s schedules and share in the trade-off of home responsibilities when the other is out of town. I love being able to go back and forth to New York City where I lived for 18 years and still play many of the gigs that I have there, including the New York Pops and the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center. We love to travel and take any opportunity to turn a work trip into a personal adventure anywhere in the world. When we’re home together, we like to spend evenings outdoors on our patio with a nice glass of wine.
TNE: You performed with Beyoncé at the White House for President Obama (how cool!). Tell us what this experience meant to you.
KAC: I was speechless and beyond excited when I got the call to perform with Beyoncé at the Second State Dinner. It felt like a dream to be playing for President Obama and the honoree, Mexican President Felipe Calderón. The First Family was sitting directly in front of me and I watched Michelle, Sasha and Melia singing “to the left, to the left” when we played “Irreplaceable” while hundreds of silk monarch butterflies dangled from the ceiling. We were fortunate to each be personally greeted by President and Mrs. Obama afterward; they were the warmest, most gracious human beings and posed for several photos with all of us. The next day, the White House photographer Pete Souza released one official photo from our performance: Beyoncé and me with my harp surrounded by the laser show. It’s a stunning visual memory from one of my greatest career highlights.
I went on to perform with Bey many times in the years after that for which I’m incredibly grateful.
TNE: What are some of your favorite music venues locally?
KAC: I love the Ryman Auditorium for its incredible history and meaningfulness to Nashville musicians. I was fortunate to play a show with Rodney Crowell there last year and it has such an intimate feel – you can really connect with the audience. I also think OZ Arts Nashville is a cool venue with their innovative programming and exhibits.
TNE: How does Nashville aid in your creative lifestyle?
KAC: I’m inspired to create here because the city is so open to all artistic pursuits. It’s amazing to see the city’s support of friends like Susan Tinney (Tinney Contemporary) in the art community and Andra Eggleston (Electra Eggleston) in textiles, along with the richly diverse genres of music all over town. Where else can you hear live music at your local airport?!
TNE: Where are your favorite places to grab dinner in Nashville?
KAC: I’m vegetarian so I gravitate towards the places that have vegetable-forward menu options like Butcher and Bee, Etch, and Avo. I feel very fortunate to have access to the bounty from our local farmers’ markets!
TNE: What about coffee?
TNE: What is your take on the music industry for women in Nashville?
KAC: I think women are supported as leaders in the music industry here like no other city. I became a core member of the contemporary music group Intersection, founded by conductor Kelly Corcoran, the year I moved here. Two of my close friends are composer Cristina Spinei who has collaborated with Banning Bouldin/New Dialect Dance Company, and violinist Alicia Enstrom, who is the new Artistic Director of ALIAS Chamber Ensemble. There are so many examples like these of female leaders in the music industry.
TNE: What would your advice be for young women trying to rise in their careers?
KAC: I tell my students to be open to all opportunities and to not be defined by just one aspect of the music business. Personal relationships and your ability to be flexible are as important as your talent in any given field.
TNE: How do you start your mornings?
KAC: I have one espresso or a cup of tea, usually outside on my patio, and take a minimum of ten minutes to be mindful and listen to nature before I check emails or social media. If I’m not heading to a morning recording session or teaching, I take my dog Argos for a long walk at Carnton Plantation.
TNE: Are you a morning person or a night owl?
KAC: That all depends on what my gig schedule looks like! Last week, I played with The Who at Bridgestone Arena and was up until the wee hours of the morning; the next day I had a 9 am recording session. I have to go with the flow since I’m never on a set routine.
“I have to go with the flow since I’m never on a set routine.”
TNE: What part of Nashville is your favorite?
KAC: I live close to downtown Franklin, which I love for so many reasons, including our incredible farmer’s market. In Nashville, I spend most of my time in Hillsboro Village since it’s within walking distance of Vanderbilt University. I enjoy having lunch at Fido and popping into UAL or Posh to see what new styles they have in.
TNE: What is your cocktail of choice?
KAC: Italian red wine, especially Cannanou or Puglia. I also love a Grey Goose martini up, with a twist.
TNE: Your favorite words to live by:
KAC: With great risk comes great reward.
TNE: What is your favorite type of music to listen to?
KAC: I like all good music. When I’m driving, I listen to Sirius XM Alternative Rock, Lithium, Classic Rewind, and The Spectrum.
TNE: Any podcasts you’ve been loving lately?
KAC: Broken Record because it’s co-hosted by Malcolm Gladwell, whose books are a staple in my library. I particularly love the double episode with Questlove, since I was so fortunate to work closely with him and The Roots on a few Jay-Z shows. As a classically trained musician, I also appreciate Sticky Notes.
TNE: Where do you like to get a workout in locally?
KAC: I practice yoga at home and take long walks and hikes on the Natchez Trace with my dog.