Jacinta Dennett is a leading figure in harp performance and teaching in Australia.
Her wide range of performance styles include as concerto soloist, recitalist, orchestral and chamber musician, as well as playing Celtic harp in an Irish band, teaming up with an operatic soprano in duo Bliss! and as a Showcase performer aboard a Japanese cruise ship. She has held residencies in some of Sydney’s most prestigious city and harbour-side venues, and in 2013 she performed in the multi award-winning Malthouse Theatre production The Bloody Chamber, featuring an original score by David Chisholm for three harps and starring Australian actress Alison Whyte. In 2014, she was recognised on the global stage during the World Harp Congress in Sydney, performing in the opening act with didgeridoo player William Barton and guiding the audience through morning stretches and warm-ups.
Media reviews have declared Jacinta’s performance as “beyond reproach”, and one commentator described her unique gift for creating something tangible from music as “making architecture through sound”. Her work is recognised for its rare fusion of poetry – through her heartfelt and intuitive embodiment of music – and physicality – enriched by her flamenco dance and martial arts study, which includes a national title in taekwondo.
Poetry is also central to Jacinta’s programming, which she creates with a focus on audience experience. Her program French Kisses was a sultry collection of short pieces featuring flute, violin and harp; Scintillation was a musical feast performed by the Melbourne Harp Ensemble to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the birth of composer Carlos Salzedo; and her duo Bliss! program And their song melts with the moonlight was an exquisite rendition of French Symbolist poetry, echoing its desire to make the soul visible.
Jacinta leads harp pedagogy at Australia’s most distinguished musical institutions: the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM), Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School and Monash University, and for seven years she has been facilitating a weekly Harp Masterclass for students across these institutions. With formal teaching qualifications and a background in Steiner education and Suzuki methods, teaching both adults and children is an important extension of Jacinta’s dedication to harp. Drawing upon her Feldenkrais, eurythmy, dance and martial arts knowledge, and delivered in a style her students describe as joyful, she encourages musicians to seek improvements and solutions to their own performances by tuning into their bodies as a way to cultivate their own continued self-learning.
Demonstrating her own love of learning, Jacinta holds degrees in Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Music Performance, Graduate Diploma of Music Performance, Graduate Diploma of Education, Foundation Certificate in Steiner Education, and has recently completed a Masters of Fine Arts in Interdisciplinary Arts Practice, researching ways to use eurythmy in harp playing.
Jacinta has been involved across every aspect of harp administration in Australia. She has been president of both the NSW and Victorian Harp Societies as well as contributing through a range of other volunteer roles from treasurer to newsletter editor; curated Camp Street Harp Camp bringing together performers from across Australia, including Evan Lawson as composer-in-residence; and was a founding team member behind the Australian Harp Festival, where she created the festival’s Harp Composition Competition and has presented guest lectures and workshops.
Harp is an instrument of ethereal mysteries with the harpist’s movement setting the strings to vibrate, handing the music a life of its own. Jacinta describes this interactive experience of playing harp as the sensation of swimming with sound.