Harpist & music education advocate from Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada

Sarah Veber is an alumna from both polar regions, having participated in SOI’s Arctic 2013 and Antarctic 2014 expeditions. Sarah is a 2014 Loran Scholar at the University of Ottawa, where she is earning a Bachelor of Music in Harp Performance. She began her undergraduate degree studying Biochemistry, but has since transitioned to pursue her true passion of musical performance. Sarah’s favourite mantra is “life begins at the edge of your comfort zone”. She has been living by these words since her first SOI experience, as evidenced by her participation in national strings competitions, completion of internships overseas, and her summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.

The Expedition Experience

Sarah describes her first SOI expedition (to the Arctic in 2013) as a turning point in her life. It was her first time away from home, and having this seminal experience in such a remarkable setting greatly increased her confidence and sense of independence. In addition to the voyage itself, the adventure of fundraising her expedition fee also allowed her to push past many personal boundaries.

During her Antarctic expedition, longtime SOI educator Dave Fletcher had a profound influence on her. She says he was fascinating to listen to because of his vast knowledge and personal stories about the world’s southernmost continent. He spoke often about the history of Antarctic researchers and explorers. This helped Sarah realize the global impact of groundbreaking research near the South Pole, and appreciate the incredibly difficult times past explorers endured so people can visit and learn from Antarctica today.

Realizing Goals & Ambitions

Sarah’s drive has led her to enjoy a number of accomplishments in recent years. She has held the role of principal harpist with the Newfoundland Symphony Youth Orchestra for four seasons, and was invited to perform as a guest soloist with the String’s of St. John’s, an Ottawa-based orchestral group. Sarah gained recognition as a finalist in the National Arts Centre’s 2016 Orchestra Bursary Competition. She has also studied abroad with internationally-renowned artists, and earned a diploma from the Royal Conservatory of Music as a pianist.

“I lay in the snow at the top of Danko island. I lost track of time, maybe five minutes, maybe an hour. For that brief period in my life, the oddly warm feeling of the Antarctic sun on my face and the majesty of towering glaciers encompassing me replaced the stress and worry of everyday life as I had come to know it. Reflecting back, this was a once in a lifetime glimpse into the raw beauty of nature, untouched by human hand. It was refreshing to feel that sense of isolation and peace with the world.”

Making a Difference

Sarah actively serves as a community leader in the areas of music advocacy and education. During the school year – through an initiative by the National Arts Centre – she visits local schools to encourage students to stay engaged with music. Furthermore, she inspires the next generation of artists by teaching up-and-coming harpists at the Ottawa Youth Orchestra Academy. Sarah is currently working with the Coalition for Music Education in Canada, exploring the crucial role music plays in youth development and women’s empowerment. She has made a difference through science as well, having conducted research at the University of Ottawa on the musical disorder called “amusia” (commonly known as tone deafness) in the past.

Looking Ahead

Sarah’s harp career is blossoming – she’s been performing at notable events like Remembrance Day at the Canadian War Museum – and she’s well on her way to reaching the world stage. She has her sights set on performing at the Aspen Summer Music Festival in 2017. In the future Sarah aspires to earn an Artist Diploma at the Julliard School in New York City, and compete at prestigious events such as the International Harp Contest in Israel. Lastly, just as others are motivated when reading her story, she aims to stay in touch with her fellow SOI alumni to stay inspired by hearing about their various endeavours and initiatives.

“Follow your passions. Enjoying life and enjoying what you do is the most important thing. Don’t wait, make the change now.”