Thursday, December 5, 2013

Vol State Professor Lends Harp Skills to Duck Dynasty Christmas

It’s not the typical musical instrument for a kid to choose. Cindy Wyatt says the appeal for her was immediate. She knew that she wanted to play the harp. “I started when I was 11,” she said. “It was very glamorous. A harp is a beautiful thing for a kid.”

That harp has taken the Vol State Associate Professor of English many interesting places. When she is not teaching literature or composition, she can often be found in a Nashville recording studio. You may have heard a few of the artists that she has recorded for: “Faith Hill, Garth Brooks, Barbara Mandrell, Ronnie Milsap and Glenn Campbell,” she said, with just a partial list. “Johnny Cash did a Christmas TV special and I was on camera with him. They put makeup on me and it gave me a rash for two weeks. I looked like a pumpkin.”

Like many Nashville session musicians, she usually does her tracks by herself and long after the artist has finished. She remembers one recording moment in particular. “Usually I’m overdubbing and so it was eerie to me that this was Elvis singing in my head. It was just amazing.” It was harp work for Elvis’s last album, before he died.

Wyatt has plenty of memories and even played on a big hit, “When I Dream” by Crystal Gayle. But it may be a rather odd piece of recent Christmas music that brings her artistry to the widest audience.

“I got the call in early October. It was for the Duck Dynasty Christmas CD. I was called in to do a harp overdub for “Duck the Halls.”

“Duck the Halls: A Robertson Family Christmas” debuted in the Billboard top ten in November and is being called one of the hottest selling CDs of the Christmas season. The CD features the cast of the mega-popular reality TV show “Duck Dynasty.”

“I thought the music was kind of hokey, actually,” said Wyatt. “But they are so popular, everyone is getting it.”

Wyatt plays everything from jazz and classical to Celtic music on the harp. She is also a writer and that ties in with a life-long dream. “I had a fantasy that I would write a novel that would be published and Johnny Carson would have me on and I would play my harp,” she said with a laugh.

The Carson dream may now be unobtainable, but the harp session work will most likely continue. “My mother realized early on that harpists are pretty rare in the music world. So, there are more jobs available to harpists; which is still true.”

There is still one more dream and, perhaps, a more achievable one. “I never have had a gold record,” she said.

If the Duck Dynasty CD continues to sell, the television stars may help her reach a milestone that Elvis Presley, Garth Brooks and Faith Hill could not.

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