Andy Harnsberger's new 'Phoenix' CD tells many stories


Posted 3/14/18

Lee University professor Andy Harnsberger recently released his newest album, “Phoenix,” for fans old and new alike.

The 50-year-old associate professor of music is originally from …

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Andy Harnsberger's new 'Phoenix' CD tells many stories


Lee University professor Andy Harnsberger recently released his newest album, “Phoenix,” for fans old and new alike.

The 50-year-old associate professor of music is originally from Roanoke, Virginia. He earned his undergraduate and master’s degree in Percussion Performance at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and his doctorate at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. He then moved to Nashville where he started playing marimba on tour. He later worked a clinic and presentation at Lee, where he was hired as adjunct faculty the following fall (1998). Harnsberger was artist-in-residence for 15 years until he was offered a full-time position at the college.

“I’ve been interested in music for as long as I can remember. I used to get in trouble for banging on my [school] desk a lot when I was younger,” Harnsberger said. “It all started when I got a drum set in sixth grade. My parents hooked me up with private lessons, and from that point on, I knew I wanted to be a musician.”

In his role at Lee, Harnsberger teaches “all things percussion.”

“My specialties are in the field of traditional percussion, or classical percussion,” Harnsberger said. “That could include any keyboard instruments, concert snare drums, rudimental snare drum, timpani and orchestral excerpts.”

Aside from Harnsberger, Lee also has a separate drum teacher and another adjunct professor who teaches world percussion.

Having completed his newest CD, “Phoenix,” Harnsberger explains that the name has a much more symbolic meaning to his life than simply being interesting.

“I’ve been wanting to record my own music for a long time, because everything that I write is based on my own, personal experience, or symbolizes something close to me. Every song tells a story,” Harnsberger said.

One example he cites is the first song on the CD, titled “Shine on Circular Quay,” written in 2012. This refers to his time spent in Australia in an area called the Circular Quay, in which the scenery and friendliness of the locals inspired him to write a piece to capture the energy of it all.

In 2013, he wrote “Words Unspoken,” his first solo piece. This song is designed to capture the emotions someone may go through upon losing a loved one, the composer said. Split into three different sections, each refers to a different stage of grieving, with the first being sadness, the second being anger and the third being peace of mind. Like “Shine on Circular Quay,” “Words Unspoken” is based on Harnsberger’s personal experience.

Before his current position at Lee, Harnsberger worked with the Richmond Symphony from his sophomore to senior year in college, numerous freelance positions in orchestras and played congas at the VCU dance department throughout school. Upon graduation, he worked more freelance work around Baltimore, then played with the Rochester Philharmonic. When he moved to Nashville, he he was trying to get a marimba career going while playing that instrument at art galleries, libraries and even elementary schools.

“To me, ‘Phoenix’ the song is about me,” Harnsberger said. Being based on the mythological bird, which lives 500-1000 years and burns itself alive – only to resurrect from the ashes wholly renewed – “Phoenix” refers to Harnsberger’s overworking, burnout and eventual return to percussion.

From 2006-10, Harnsberger stopped playing his marimba; this was due to having played 80 solo concerts in a span of eight months from 2005-06. In 2010, after taking a much-needed break from music, he returned to it and wrote “Phoenix.”

“The piece starts out very ominous sounding, then it goes through a death march, then into a sense of nervousness as the bird builds its funeral pyre,” he said. “Then you hear faster, louder notes representing the fire, and then you hear the opening theme again as the phoenix resurrects itself.”

Harnsberger says “Phoenix” is an accumulation of his own spirit, art and emotions that have been with him for nearly 20 years.

Having recently been featured in “Fanfare Magazine,” the largest reviewer of classical CDs in the U.S., Harnsberger said, “It was an honor to be featured in such a prestigious magazine.” He currently enjoys teaching his classes at Lee alongside his service Pomeranian, Chester. When not teaching, he loves spending time with his 6-year-old daughter.

“Phoenix” can be purchased as a hard copy CD from, or digitally through iTunes. He states that most people opt to download the songs nowadays, which he says actually gives them a less high-quality sound, as the less-compressed product on a compact disc gives them better sound than the digital version.


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