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: Arts Integration, STEAM, History, World Cultures
Grade Levels: Pre-K, K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12
Special Populations: At-Risk Students, Dyslexic Students, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Students, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) students, Exceptional Learners (students with disabilities as well as those who are gifted and talented
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
School-based Afterschool Program, School-based Assembly Program, School-based Summer Program
Community-based Assembly Program, Community-based Afterschool Program, Community-based Summer Program
- 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.”
- Glass Harp Music, serving K-12 audiences in GA and in other states:
Treat your students to a thrilling performance of the Glass Harp, interwoven with sound physics! Other improvised musical instruments are included; musical saw, bottles, bowls, and a rubber band pan! Plus, a beautiful ten-foot interactive WAVE MACHINE for students and teachers to enjoy, for sound physics demonstration. Performances also feature a small Ben Franklin designed glass armonica.
In addition, all schools are sent a half-hour documentary: The Glass Harp and other Musical Oddities. A great supplementary follow-up to live performance!
This program is customized to age/grade levels. Max. 300 per group (in typical school settings). Length: 50 min. To see another program overview (for k-12 in Atlanta), please visit https://www.glassharp.org/atledu.html
At the bottom of this page, note links to the Study Guide, Instructional Plan, and Technical Requirements. Also see how Glass Harp Performances are aligned to Georgia DOE’s Standards of Excellence in several subject areas. There are links to each subject area and document.
- Four-Minute Glass Harp Showcase Video
- Brien Plays Mr. Softee Ice Cream Truck Song
- Video Testimonial from Principal in Douglas County, GA
- Brien Engel – Glass Harp (Atlanta Public Television)
- Brien Engel Youtube Channel
Sample Lesson Plans/Study Guides/Georgia Standards Alignments:
- Glass Harp Music – Program Guide
- Glass Harp Music – Instructional Plan
- Glass Harp Music – Technical Requirements
- Glass Harp Alignment to GA DOE Standards: k-5 General Music
- Glass Harp Alignment to GA DOE Standards: 6-8 Gen. Music, Band, Orchestra
- Glass Harp Alignment to GA DOE Standards: k-8 Science
- Glass Harp Alignment to GA DOE Standards: k-8 Math
- Glass Harp Alignment to GA DOE Standards: k-8 Social Studies
- Glass Harp Alignment to GA DOE Standards: k-8 English Language Studies
- Glass Harp Alignment to GA DOE Standards: k-8 Visual Art
- Glass Harp Alignment to GA DOE Standards: k-8 Physical Education