Brien Engel is an explorer of unusual sounds coaxed out of everyday objects. His main passion is the glass harp, an instrument comprised of 50 wine glasses, which he plays by gliding his fingers across their rims. This enchanting art form dates back to the 18th century, and Brien is one of very few modern practitioners. His repertoire includes pieces by Mozart, Bach, and Haydn, as well as popular standards, movie tunes, ice cream truck songs, and the occasional heavy metal request. In addition to lots of music, Brien incorporates the physics of the glass harp and science of sound principles. He also plays musical saw, bottles, singing bowls, and introduces Ben Franklin’s invention (and the first American musical instrument), the glass armonica. Brien’s show is full of audience involvement as well. This unique presentation has earned acclaim all over the country by countless students, teachers, and parents.
Arts Disciplines: Music
Core Content Curriculum Areas: Science, Technology, Music, Social Studies/History, Math
Specialized Content Areas: STEAM, Arts Integration, World Cultures
Grade Levels: Pre-K, K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12
Special Populations: Special Needs Students, At-risk Students, Chorus and Orchestra, Science Clubs, Seniors
Pre-Service Learning and Professional Development: Post-Secondary/Pre-Service Learning, Professional Development for K-12 Teachers, Professional Development for Teaching Artists
Geographic Availability: Metro Atlanta, North Georgia, Middle Georgia, South Georgia
- Metro Atlanta (ten counties):
- $320 for a single program
- $450 for two programs
- $580 for three programs
- $710 for four programs
- Outside Metro Atlanta:
- $520 for a single program
- $780 for two programs
- $950 for three programs
Brien plays his glass harp in a variety of settings: from library and K-12 venues, to corporate and private club events, festivals and state fairs, retirement communities, weddings, and places such as the D.A.R. in Washington, DC, and Spivey Hall in Atlanta. Internationally, he has played in Germany, Dubai, Singapore, and Hong Kong. Brien is well known for his S.T.E.A.M. integrative educational programs nationwide. He is on the Georgia Council for the Arts’ Teaching Artist Roster. He is also an approved teaching artist with the South Carolina Arts Commission, the Arts and Science Council in Charlotte, NC, several New York BOCES rosters, and several Young Audiences chapters across the country. He is also a past president of Glass Musical International, a service organization devoted to his craft and community across the globe. Additionally, he composes his own music and had a previous career composing soundtracks for live and puppet theatre productions. He is also a student of mbira, a traditional Zimbabwean instrument.
Brien Engel has been a teaching artist for 22 years with his glass music program in Georgia schools and schools in fourteen other states. He began working with young people in the late 1980s as a puppeteer with the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta. After that he was a full-time puppeteer with the Piccadilly Puppets Company, writing and performing school shows which were organized through Young Audiences of Atlanta. In the early 1990s, he developed his glass music program with Young Audiences (YA) and began to travel throughout their national network. He then became affiliated with numerous state and local arts councils and teaching artist rosters. He has received professional development from YA’s artistic and educational directors, and from specialists working with some of these other arts agencies.
In addition to playing in K-12 settings, he has given programs for college-bound aspiring teachers, science clubs, and other niche audiences. Recently he appeared at the Waxahachie Texas Chautauqua, with its 2016 theme “World of Water” along with keynote speaker Fabien Cousteau.
“As a glass harpist, my artistic mission is to do my very best work, every chance I have to play. A performer must enjoy what they do and demonstrate full attention devoted to their art. In a school, that should inspire audiences to do something creative, whatever it will be, and to enjoy the journey.
My specialty as an artist in education is in showing how our ‘science’ and ‘music’ brains are wired up together. We have enjoyed music forever, yet it’s also an exercise in anticipating repetition and patterns of life— part of the business of science. This underscores everything technical I have to demonstrate and talk about. I aim for a balanced experience, showing my audience I am connected to the art form, while making the educational material come alive. It is a source of pride and inspiration for my own continuing education in life, and communication with an audience. I positively believe what I do is good for the world and young minds.”
- ’20—’21 Glass Harp Distance Programming!
Brien presents a brand new half-hour concert and documentary: “The Glass Harp and other Musical Oddities,” in a distance learning package combined with live follow-up conferencing. The movie features a Glass Harp concert, interwoven with many educational segments covering sound physics, history of glass-making and glass music, how-to tips for aspiring glass musicians, examples of many other home-made musical instruments, and a segment on Benjamin Franklin’s invention, the Glass Armonica.The movie will be accessible via secure link for either five days, or one half-day, to a school. Teachers may assign it as homework, or woven into daily instruction.Included in the package are “Meet the Artist” sessions via Zoom, Google Meet, or your choice of platform during the access period. “Meet the Artist,” in addition to a Q/A opportunity with teachers and students, gives students a chance to make live musical requests. Teachers are welcome to customize the sessions in advance with Brien at no extra charge, to cover their topics of choice or current projects with students.
Sample Lesson Plans/Study Guides:
- K-12, one school per package.
Technical Requirements: Internet connection
Total Fees (choice of packages):
- Five days/one school: movie access + two “Meet the Artist” sessions — $420.00
- One half-day/one school: movie access + one “Meet the Artist” session — $250.00
- Glass Harp Music, serving K-12 audiences in GA and in other states (14 so far). Customized to age/grade levels. Max. 300 per group (in typical school settings). Length: 50 min. To see program overview at once, online (for k-12 in Atlanta), please visit www.glassharp.org/atledu.html. Much more is available in documents for this program, “program objectives,” interview Q/A, descriptions, etc. And note: Curriculum correlations for various states and systems (some require updating) are available at: http://glassharp.org/k12%20standards.html.
Sample Lesson Plans/Study Guides:
- Glass Harp Music – Program Guide
- Glass Harp Music – Instructional Plan
- Glass Harp Music – Technical Requirements