Held at the spectacular Sanctum Retreat Center, the Canadian International Summer Harp Institute provides a unique place for harpists of all ages and levels to immerse themselves in a week of intensive training on their instrument with world-renowned teachers and to enjoy the camaraderie of similarly motivated students.

Now in its 9th year, CISHI has quickly gained a reputation for its high quality of instruction, individually-tailored programming, fun, supportive and spontaneous atmosphere. Because all participants and faculty reside at Sanctum, enjoying fabulous healthy meals and off-schedule moments from exploring the 160-acre grounds to fireside singalongs and spontaneous jam sessions or a quiet chat in the Chapel, CISHI provides a rare opportunity to share life experiences and get to know each other on an intimate level. Students and faculty alike come for the course and return for the community!

Program Details

Dates: July 17 (4 p.m.) – July 24 (1 p.m.) 2020. Depending on student numbers, a second week may be offered from July 24 – July 31.

Harp Instructors: Gianetta Baril, Judy Loman, Julia Kay Jamieson, Ellen Gibling

The CISHI program includes private lessons, workshops and ensembles. Other classes may be added depending on the needs and number of registered students. Registration also includes ticket to the Faculty Recital.

Separate from their private bedrooms, all students also have individual rooms for practicing and private lessons. Participants move their harps to workshop/ensemble sessions.

Participants cover individual cost of transportation to Caroline, Alberta. If travelling to Calgary Airport (YYC), CISHI Administration will endeavour to assist with organizing a ride-share with a local participant or shuttle service.

For information regarding participation of students under 18 years of age, please contact CISHI administration at info@cishi.ca.

2020 Course Package

  • $1850 CAD (approx. $1400 U.S.)  – includes Private Lessons, Ensembles, Workshops, Faculty concert, Room and Board (Early bird rate of $1750 available until February 29) 

Attention: Course package specifics are subject to change. Registered students will be notified of any important changes via email. CISHI will only run with a minimum of 16 students. 


Private Lessons

Participants will receive multiple private lessons throughout the week. Students may bring solos they are currently working on or polishing, as well as something new to start. Orchestral excerpts and technical exercises may also be studied, based on student needs. Students are also encouraged to bring their own arrangements, compositions, or improvisation ideas for feedback. Depending on the number of attendees, it may be possible to book extra private lessons with faculty for an additional fee.


A variety of workshops will be offered throughout the week. All participants are welcome to attend.

2020 topics will be chosen from (in no particular order!):

1. Creative Composition – Brainstorm ideas to get started creating an original piece for harp. Get inspired with different approaches for how to compose. Pieces can be short and sweet, written down or not, any genre, any topic. Students can feel free to bring something they are currently working on or bring nothing at all!

2. Traditional Irish tunes –Learn a traditional Irish jig by ear and try accompaniment, ornamentation, and variation ideas that encourage you to join in and make the tune your own!

3. Comping for Traditional Dance Tunes – The harp has lots of exciting potential in the rhythm section of traditional sessions and ensembles. This workshop will look at chord voicings, rhythmic patterns, and percussive techniques to support the groove of dance tunes and bring out their character.

4. How can I help you? Technique tips from THE Master – Judy shares her gentle wisdom on technical challenges – trills, crossovers, cross-unders, turnarounds…Feel free to bring music and specific technical questions.

5. Improv Experiments Explore multiple approaches for how to “practice” improv. This workshop will help get the creativity flowing (while also throwing in a little bit of theory, ear training, and technique/coordination into the mix).

6. Theory Basics and Beyond – not sure what makes a scale, chord, leading tone or why they matter? Or need a refresher? Why do some notes just “feel” like they have to go somewhere? Here’s a workshop that sets a foundation to put into  practice, helping you make sense of what you’re playing and why.

7. Orchestral workshop and excerpt study – if you’re playing in orchestra and struggle with everything coming at you, we’ll share some ideas on how to manage it all. Do you have an excerpt you want to learn, let us know!

8. Setting Goals and Practice Strategies to meet them – Set yourself up for successful practice sessions; learn ways to be mindful and efficient in reaching your goals. Brainstorm ways of keeping your pieces fresh and inspiring. Learn some tricks for warming up, memorizing pieces, and learning tricky passages.  Bring questions for discussion and feel free to bring a short excerpt.

9. Healthy Harping – learn to pay better attention to your body in general and specifically in relationship to the harp. If you need, we can identify problem spots and use this week to set some good habits to play healthy – and produce a great sound in the process!

Drop-in Sessions

Students can drop by to get some help about what they’re learning, fingerings, other technique issues, ensemble questions…


Students can sign up to play for other participants and receive feedback from a teacher in a masterclass setting.


Each participant will work in an ensemble with two or more harpists. One piece will be assigned prior to CISHI. Faculty will coach your ensemble on that piece. Participants may choose to perform this piece in a student recital or just play it for fun. Students should also feel free to bring their own ensemble music to CISHI; there will be free time where groups an come together for some impromptu harp fun!

Practice time

Students have separate practice rooms and free time throughout the day to practice. CISHI is a great space to really focus on your harp without the usual distractions.

Faculty Recital

Relax and enjoy a recital given by CISHI’s amazing faculty! Following the recital, faculty will sit as a panel and answer any questions from the audience on performance prep, concert day routines, performing, musical careers etc.

Student Sharing

At the end of the week, ensembles present their pieces in an informal gathering. We encourage the groups to come up with some creative stagecraft to compliment their music. Students may choose to play a solo but it is not required though it is a great opportunity to gain performance experience in a very supportive setting.

Morning Stretch

Recognizing the importance of a healthy and supple body, stretch and movement sessions are an integral part of the daily schedule.

Other Details:

Rental Harps:

A limited number of rentals harps (lever and pedal) are available. Fee (Pedal Harp – $275, Lever harp – $125) to be covered by the participant. It is highly recommended that participants bring their own instruments, especially pedal harps, if possible.