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For Rashida Jolley, A Harp To Make More Than Music

Filed by KOSU News in Art & Life.
April 19, 2012

Washingtonian Rashida Jolley is known for bringing an unusual instrument into the worlds of pop, R&B, and hip-hop: the harp.

She captured the nation’s attention after competing on the hit show America’s Got Talent in 2009. She went on to collaborate with some top names in the music industry. She did a world tour with Lady Gaga, opened for John Legend, and performed at the Ludacris Foundation’s Tribute to Quincy Jones.

Rashida Jolley is now focusing on her solo career. Her debut album, Tales of My Heart, is shaped by her personal experiences and inspirations.

In a performance chat with Tell Me More host Michel Martin, Jolley explains that both her parents played tremendous roles in shaping her career.

Her mother came up with the idea for the harp, and Jolley – who had studied other instruments such as the violin, piano and flute – ended up falling in love with the multi-string instrument.

Jolley also hopes to continue the legacy of her late father, a professional jazz guitarist and the first person to earn a Jazz Studies degree from Howard University.

“He was offered a record deal, the opportunity to go on a worldwide tour. But he turned it down because he didn’t want to be away from his kids. There are seven of us altogether,” Jolley says. “So he scarified his career, and his dream was to go back into music after he raised all of his kids. Unfortunately, he passed away unexpectedly before we all became adults.”

Jolley’s father died of a heart defect, and she remembers his sacrifice each day. She aims to honor him by making music and encouraging others to live healthy lifestyles. Jolley works with the American Heart Association.

The songstress is also an advocate for military families and dedicates her new song, “So Far Away,” to them. Jolley recalls her brother giving her the idea for the song: “He said, ‘Let’s write a song about the families of those who are in the military because it’s hard on them when they have a relative go away, you know.’ And recently I got an email from my god-brother who is away now. And he has kids, and he has a wife. And it’s hard for him. It’s hard for the family.”

Jolley adds that she is a big believer in love – from the love soldiers have for their country to the love she witnessed between her parents. And all that comes to life in her album Tales of My Heart. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

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