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Reading harpist returns to hometown for performance with the US Air Force Concert Band

Gréta Ásgeirsson showed audience members her harp during intermission at a concert. “The harp is an intriguing instrument for many people. It’s large, and how frequently are you able to get that close to one?”US Air Force Band

She has performed for Vice President Kamala Harris at her home at the Naval Observatory. She’s also played patriotic tunes and classical music in communities across the country.

But Master Sergeant Gréta Ásgeirsson, the principal harpist of the US Air Force Concert Band, is particularly excited over one stop on the band’s current 12-stop tour of the Northeast.

On March 29, the band is performing at Reading Memorial High School — her alma mater.

“I was in the concert band, and jazz band, and stage band,” Ásgeirsson, 31, recalled of her music education. “So I’m very familiar with that particular auditorium.”


She hasn’t been back to her high school in nearly a decade, said Ásgeirsson, who is based in Washington, D.C.

“I believe a couple of my old band directors will be [there], but I can’t say that for certain. My parents, definitely,” she said, laughing, in an interview. “It’s always fun to play for people that you know, but it’s also really fun to get to play for people that you don’t know and really give them a taste of what we do.”

Ásgeirsson will be performing a solo: a movement of Alberto Ginastera’s Harp Concerto.

The concert band is the “official wind ensemble” of the Air Force, and one of six groups that comprise the US Air Force Band, according to its website.

In December, Master Sergeant Gréta Ásgeirsson performed for Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff at a reception at their home at the Naval Observatory.US Air Force Band

Joining the Air Force wasn’t initially part of her plan, Ásgeirsson said, but it’s been wonderful. It’s also where she met her husband, another band member.

She loves touring with the band, she said, especially because the concerts are interactive. During intermission, as well as before and after performances, the musicians often invite audience members to come up to the stage and speak to them.

“I will frequently have students, or anyone who wants to sit at the harp and try and play it, [and] give them a little demo,” she said. “The harp is an intriguing instrument for many people. It’s large, and how frequently are you able to get that close to one?”


Ásgeirsson started learning to play the harp when she was 7, she said. She grew up in a musical family, but it wasn’t until joining the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras in high school that she decided to pursue it as a career. She went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in music from Boston University in 2013 and her master’s degree in music from the Chicago College for the Performing Arts in 2015, according to her official bio.

She began looking out for auditions and jobs after graduating, and coincidentally, the Air Force Concert Band was looking for a new harpist.

“For jobs where there’s only one harpist in an ensemble, these are rare openings,” she said. “They only happen every 20 to 30 years.”

Master Sergeant Gréta Ásgeirsson started to play the harp at age 7. She is now principal harpist for the US Air Force Concert Band, which will perform on March 29 at Reading Memorial High School, her alma mater.Master Sergeant Valentin Lukashuk

She was elated when she passed the multi-round national audition.

“Nothing wrong against freelancing,” she said of a career path followed by many musicians. “But there’s that level of security that comes with knowing where your next paycheck is going to come from, knowing the colleagues that you’re going to work with.”

Reading is one of four Massachusetts performances on the band’s tour. The others are March 26 in Springfield; March 27 in Duxbury; and March 30 in Worcester. The band also will be performing in New Hampshire and Maine. Tickets are free, but seats are limited.


Selections will include music from movies, operas, and musicals, American patriotic tunes, and pieces that reflect international partnerships with military bands abroad, Ásgeirsson said.

One of her favorite pieces the band will perform is “Adventures on Earth” from the soundtrack of “E.T.,” the score for which was written by former Boston Pops maestro and Air Force Band alum, John Williams.

Ásgeirsson said she’s excited to talk to members of the audience at the upcoming concerts.

“It feels more interactive,” she said. “[It’s] unlike going to a concert where you can participate by clapping at the end of the performance. You can actually get to talk with the performers.”

Claire Law can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @claire_law_.