March 2 2011 12:00 AM

Faith led Deidreanna Potter to become a harpist; now, she's performing at Red Cedar Festival

Growing up in a music family, Deidreanna Potter had to choose an instrument to play. But she didn’t want a common one. Inspired by her Christian faith, Potter picked the harp at age 10.

“I was amazed by how many times the harp was called upon in the praise of the Lord, and I thought that must be a pretty good instrument,” she said.

This proved to be a good decision.

In only seven years, Potter, a 17-year-old from Charlotte, has become a well-known harpist in Michigan and is regarded as a prodigy. As a student of former Michigan State University harp instructor Lauralee Campbell, Potter was invited to join the MSU Symphony by conductor Leon Gregorian when she was 13. Two years later, Potter won first place in Lansing Symphony Orchestra’s 2009 Symphony Youth Competition.

She has performed in the American Harp Society’s national competition and played with the Mason Orchestral Society, the Lenge Chorale, the Jackson Symphony and the Spring Arbor University Orchestra.

Soon, Potter will add another credit to her resume. She is this year’s featured soloist at the 16th Red Cedar Festival of Community Bands.

The day-long event, hosted by the Meridian Community Band at Okemos High School this Saturday, brings together 12 community bands from across Michigan to present concerts. Potter will perform David Bennett’s “La Rougette” and Johan de Meij’s “At Kitty O’Shea’s” with the Meridian Community Band under the direction of Carolyn Sherrill at 2:15 p.m. March 5 in the high school’s auditorium.

The life of the home-schooled Potter is filled with music. Potter’s father plays trumpet and guitar, and her mother
is a singer. She has six siblings, and every child in her family plays an instrument. They play frequently at their church, Calvary Baptist in Charlotte.

Potter said she is grateful to have such a musical family. She has also met two important harp instructors, Kelly Yoakam and Lauralee Campbell, who have taught her solid technical skills and nurtured her musical background.
As a pious Christian, Potter thinks harp is a gift from the God.

“Music is the way that we can honor and glorify the grace of the Lord,” she said. “I believe He is giving me the ability and opportunity — the harp — to do that for Him.”

Potter hopes to study music at a university, but she hasn’t decided which one to attend. But Potter believes she will remain heavily involved with music.

“Music means a lot to me, and it’s something that I am thoroughly into,” she said.

The Red Cedar festival is both a musical entertainment for the public and an educational opportunity for local musicians to share and critique their works. Each band will perform a 40-munite concert to be judged by master clinicians. The bands will learn from each other and make improvements.

“It’s very valuable and friendly competition,” said Jerry Mattson, the festival’s publicity director.

The event will also offer seven one-hour master classes to all interested musicians for free. People will learn about saxophone, trombone and percussion in each class.

Red Cedar Festival
9 a.m. Saturday, March 5
Okemos High School, 2800 Jolly Road, Okemos
12 area bands will present 40-minute concerts between 9 a.m. and 6:15 p.m. Deidreanna Potter performs with the Meridian Community Band at 2:15 p.m.
Free, but donations are accepted
(517) 641-4264