World Premiere of "Catapult", by Tulsa's Signature Symphony on July 3, 2018!

Video of "Celtic Princess of the Danube" World Premiere

The World Premiere for "Celtic Princess of the Danube" on 11/9/18 with Marywood University Orchestra, under the direction of Brenda Leach, joined by students of the String Project and Philadelphia Charter School with Tulsa Honors Chamber Orchestra. 

"Catapult" World Premiere

"Catapult" World Premiere, under the direction of Andrés Franco, performed by the Tulsa Signature Symphony as a Side by Side concert with the Tulsa Honors Chamber Orchestra. July 3, 2018 at TCC PACE for the 4th on the 3rd Concert.


Maureen O'Boyle, Signature Symphony Concertmistress

"I thought you did a great job with the bowings and marking the parts, there was absolutely no question of anything and it made the rehearsals go very efficiently. I really enjoyed the piece and the energy.....for a one shot premiere performance like this, I thought it was a spectacular success! I also thought the kids were really wonderfully prepared and so excited to be there, that is always an inspiration to me as well!

Best of luck, and I hope to see another collaboration like this one soon!"

Terry Pollak, Signature Symphony, Violist

"As one of the performers at the premiere, I thoroughly enjoyed rehearsing and performing "Catapult". The string writing is challenging, yet highly idiomatically suited to the instruments. Thus, with less than 30 minutes of rehearsal time, a very attractive performance was able to be achieved. I'm sure that future performances will be even more spectacular."

Erica Parker, Signature Symphony, Cellist

"I am honored to have commissioned "Catapult". The piece brings an incredible positive energy to the musicians on stage and to the audience, creating an electricity that links everyone together. Its changing and shifting melodies and cultures shows a unity within the diversity of its notes. Karen's love and hope is apparent in every note."

Reviews of Catapult

Christy Andrews, Signature Symphony Principal Clarinetist

“It was both a joy and a challenge to put together Ms. Harmon’s piece in just one short rehearsal for our Signature Symphony concert in July.  The meter changes, diverse melodies throughout the piece, and the various styles mixed together made for some tricky transitions, but also made it more fun to perform.  My favorite passages to perform were those in Gypsy style.  It’s in these times I get to channel my “Klezmer Clarinet” side and let loose for that moment in time.  Ms. Harmon’s message of “hope after tragedy” resounds with so many of us right now, and I love that she leaves us with the musical message of “hope” for a brighter tomorrow."

Jocelyn Khalaf, Violinist, Orchestra Director with Edison Middle School, Edison Rock Orchestra

'Karen Naifeh Harmon’s brilliant composition is absolutely magical.  “Catapult” embodies a vast array of emotions but ultimately ends with hopefulness. She intricately intertwines all of the sections of the orchestra, and her experience as a world traveler is evident in the different sections of the piece.  Each change of mood is like traveling to a new mysterious place.  There is obvious pain and struggling, the beautiful violin solo cries out in sadness.  The piece adventures to a climax, then ends peacefully and elegantly.  The fact that the Tulsa Honors Orchestra students had the opportunity to play a piece their teacher composed side by side with the Tulsa Signature Symphony is a memory that they will never forget.  The world debut of “Catapult” leaves the audience eager to hear what Karen Naifeh Harmon composes next."

Mike Baxter, father of Adilyn Robinson-Baxter, 1st Violin

"The “Catapult” premiere experience with the Tulsa Signature Symphony was  simply amazing. Mrs Naifeh Harmon embodies what a true teacher is for  students by providing this opportunity. To be able to play with a full  symphony a composition their teacher wrote, the students are able to  see the work it takes in composing, practice, and performance. I can  only imagine the impact this will have on all the students who  participated."

Nannete Reyes, mother of Natalie Reyes, Cellist

"The experience of playing in a professional orchestra with a  professional cellist was incredible for my daughter Natalie. It helped  her to grow as a musician and inspired her to practice even more than  usual. It taught her to really think musically and focus on the dynamics  of the composition "Catapult" as well as her cello technique. I am so  happy and thankful that she was able to have this incredible  opportunity! It would be wonderful if she and other students could have  more experiences like this in the future!"

Hana Momic & Lola Momic, 2nd Violin

"It was hard work but very  fun and an overall great experience to go through. It felt really good  to put all that effort and time into preparing for the final  performance." - Lola

"Playing with the Symphony  musicians gave my daughter a look into her future. This can only be  attained with diligence and practice that was displayed preparing for  this beautiful performance. Bravo on Catapult's  end result!"
- Proud mother, Hana

Polly Robinson, mother of Adilyn Robinson-Baxter, 1st Violin

"The opportunity to learn and play a song by a local composer was an  incredible experience.  Being partnered with a professional violinist,  expected to practice as any other member of the symphony, and being led  by a maestro is an experience of a lifetime.  

My daughter wants to be a score writer.  

She was able to see the process of 

creating a composition, putting heart, soul, sweat and tears into that piece, 

asking for input from other professionals and learning to take that constructive criticism in a positive way, making many changes to that composition, then, feeling the joy of playing the composition and hearing a  professional symphony play it, followed by the audience cheering  enthusiastically.

I  saw her grow as a musician through participation in collaboration with  the Tulsa Signature Symphony.  It may have solidified her life path."

Adilyn Robinson-Baxter, 1st Violin

"I really appreciated playing with the  symphony due to the experience of being paired with a professional.   This helped me improve my performance by watching the technique of the  professional sitting next to me.  The Maestro’s conducting was different  than Ms. Karen’s and Ms. Jody’s styles.  This allowed me to observe a  variety of methods.   I loved being able to be a part of the process of  playing “Catapult.”  Seeing it in its beginning stages and then playing  it after Ms. Karen reworked it several times showed me the process and  the amount of work required to get it perfect.

I  liked practicing so much for it, because then the performance really  felt like an accomplishment.  Being a part of the premiere performance  was fun because I knew the audience hadn’t heard it before.

The song itself had the most exciting rhythms of any song I’ve ever played."  

Laura Smith, mother of Sam Smith, 1st Violin

"I think that the whole experience of Catapult was amazing for all concerned!  
From  the perspective of my son, Sam, he has now learned many things about  music that he never had an opportunity to do before that will be  valuable in his future musical endeavors. (composing and arranging  music for film).  He saw how much work and planning and practice is  required for it to all come together. He saw how life experience and  emotion translates into a moving work of art. He learned how to work in a  professional manner with his adult symphony partner. And above all he got to share in the joy of being part of bringing this amazing piece to an audience that totally enjoyed it! It was 100 percent positive for  all."

Performances in the Works

"Celtic Princess of the Danube" World Premiere

"Celtic Princess of the Danube” is written in honor of the Celtic Princess that German archaeologists discovered in 2010 in the Danube heartland. 

Second Performance of "Catapult"

"Catapult" received a second performance by the TCC Community Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Pete Peterson at the TCC PACE Center on Monday, March 4, 2019. Erica Parker who commissioned this work spoke to the audience before the performance. This performance was received with a standing ovation!

New Idea for Other Ensembles...

A possible idea in the works is to arrange "Catapult" for Symphonic Band! This will lead to a third performance and beyond.  I studied Clarinet at  Interlochen Arts Academy and also played saxophone. I am very excited about this opportunity to  venture back into the world of Symphonic Band and to open up this piece for other various ensembles. 

Program Notes

"Catapult" Notes:

The opening rhythmic "heart beat", "Latido del Corazon",  sets the mood for the Bach Cello Suite theme symbolizing hope. The middle section is full of exotic flavors with Arabic, Latin and Gyspy influences, with some real twists and turns, Lydian scales, Gypsy melodies, moving from tertian to quartal and quintal harmonies in thinking of Aaron Copland. The shifting rhythms  pays homage to Leonard Bernstein. The ending revisits the theme of hope in an epic style!

Tulsa Honors Orchestra

THCO students rehearse at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame


Erica Parker stopped by to help prepare the students for their rehearsal with Maestro Andrés Franco. 

THO receives support from the Oklahoma Arts Council


The Tulsa Honors Orchestra performances are made possible in part by the Oklahoma Arts Council, which receives support from the State of Oklahoma and the National Endowment for the Arts. 

THCO Rehearsing at Jody Naifeh's studio


These students spent a few months rehearsing for their big night with the Tulsa Signature Symphony. 


Bio, World Music Travel

Karen Naifeh Harmon, BIO

Karen  Naifeh Harmon is a Composer & Violinist who is known for writing  Classical music fused with a twist of World Music Composition styles  including Gypsy, Arabic, Latin and Irish fiddling influences. Her  compositions have been performed by members of the New York  Philharmonic, the Tulsa Signature Symphony Orchestra, the Tulsa Signature Symphony Quartet, Tulsa Modern Movement,  Portico Dans Theatre, the Electric Rag Band, Larkin & the Tulsa Honors Orchestra & the Tulsa Honors Chamber Orchestra.

 A Nationally Certified Teacher of Violin, Karen has  recently earned a Master Certificate in Composition for Film and TV  through the prestigious Berklee College of Music, also receiving a  Berklee Celebrity Scholarship in the name of Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo,  Fall 2015.  Karen is listed as a composer with the Sydney Contemporary  Orchestra for her suite "The Red Velvet Suite of Dances" for full  symphonic orchestra.  

Karen also holds a B.S. in Business from the University of Kansas, 1991. Karen is a member of the American  Composers Forum, the Suzuki Association of the Americas, Hyechka Music  Club, is the Chair of the Student Committee of Hyechka, Wednesday Morning Musicale, Living Arts New Music Committee,  National Federation of Music Educators, Tulsa Accredited Music Teachers  Association & Oklahoma Music Teachers Association through National  Music Teachers Association, and is the Chair of the Young Musicians Recital of TAMTA. Karen is the Chair of the OMTA Composition Festival and the Chair of the Oklahoma Chapter of the NCTM Composition Competition. Karen's affiliations also include the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, in which she and her Mom, Jody Naifeh, hold the Tulsa Honors Orchestra rehearsals and concerts. Karen has taught private violin & viola lessons for  the past 27 years and conducts  the Chamber Orchestra of the Tulsa  Honors Orchestra. Karen teaches the String Ensemble Class at Bishop  Kelley High School which she started in October of 2013.

World Music and Travel

Karen and her Mom, Jody Naifeh,  have traveled around the world with students performing in different countries to engage students in the study of the world through music. 

Performance trips have included: Italy in 2002, Ireland in 2005, Austria and Germany in 2008, having performed in Schunbrunn Palace (Mozart's favorite), Argentina in 2011, having performed with the Manuel Del Falla National School of Music, Ireland in 2014, Quebec and Montreal, Canada in 2017. 

More Compositions

The "Red Velvet Suite of Dances" is a whimsical piece written for full Symphonic Orchestra. 

A Dance Suite in 6 Movements:
1. The Obscure Waltz,
2. Pavanne for a Black Rose,
3. Gigue: Garganta Del Diablo,
4. Sarabande for a Ghost,
5. Lilac Air &
6. Spanish Scherzo
by Karen Naifeh Harmon



"Catapult" World Premiere

Last year I was commissioned by the incredible Erica Parker of the Tulsa Signature Symphony to compose a piece for Signature Symphony to perform with the Tulsa Honors Chamber Orchestra. These young students will perform in a "side by side" concert at the World Premiere of "Catapult" as part of the 4th on the 3rd concert at TCC VanTrease PACE Center July 3, 2018, 7:30pm.

The Tulsa Honors Chamber Orchestra with Karen Naifeh Harmon and Erica Parker.

"Catapult" Inspiration for the piece

"Catapult" is about hope and how life propels forward dramatically after a great tragedy.
My Musician's Focal Dystonia Story: 

In 2011, I could not play my violin for one year. I thought I would go crazy, plus so many emotions are involved for musicians....guilt, anger, embarrassment,
fear...I went to many, many doctors and finally I was diagnosed with "Dystonia" , uncontrollable curling of the fingers. But I realized I was not alone as many musicians have been affected by this disorder: Glenn Gould, Leon Fleisher, Gary Graffman, and guess who else? Robert Schumann. He continued to perform and simply avoided dystonic movements. Leon Fleisher received botox shots in his arm muscles. I actually went through very expensive botox shots for my hand and arm muscles and it only treated the symptoms. It was extremely expensive (I think I paid $800 every three months...) and I wanted to find a cure for the dystonia. Well, there is no cure. Or is there?

I found a website for the Taubman Approach / Golandsky Institute and contacted Sophie Till for violin lessons via Skype. The minute I started working with Sophie, the dystonia started to melt away. I don't remember how long it took, but the curling of my left ring finger just stopped....miraculously. I now teach the Taubman Approach to my young violin students and I am seeing great results. 

"Decades ago, Dorothy Taubman's genius led her to analyze what underlies  virtuoso piano playing. The result of that investigation has produced a  body of knowledge that can lead to an effortless and brilliant  technique. It can also prevent and cure fatigue, pain and other  playing-related injuries." (quoting Sophie Till's website). Sophie Till has transferred this amazing knowledge to violin playing. I am forever grateful to Sophie Till for the release of tension and the ease of playing that I now experience in my violin playing. 

-Karen Naifeh Harmon



Review of Karen Naifeh Harmon by London Celtic Punks, with Larkin, "Toast of St. Jude" 2016:

"We are halfway through and they slip in ‘Lexy Slip Jig/Villain’s Octaves  Jig/December Jig’ a collection of dance reels and jigs that prove  Larkin are as an accomplished bunch of traditional musicians as exists  in celtic-punk. Bloody superb is the only way to describe this and  the fiddle playing of Karen Harmon is beyond brilliant."

Music Styles

Rock, Gypsy, Irish Fiddling

Performed 20 years with Larkin, Irish folk music with a punk feel. 

Performed 17 years with the Electric Rag Band, styles included rockabilly, rock, gypsy, Irish fiddling.  Also performed 4 years as a Violinist with the Tulsa Signature Symphony (approx. 1994-1998), so writing "Catapult" for Signature is a wonderful homecoming, seeing old friends and making new friends is fantastic! Opened for the Legendary Shack Shakers, Cherry Poppin' Daddies, Bugs Henderson, the Paladins, Split Lip Rayfield, Hot Club of Cowtown, Deke Dickerson, Southern Culture on the Skids. Also, have opened for Loretta Lynn and have performed with Wayne Newton, Meredith Monk, Toni Tennille, the Red Dirt Rangers & Brady Orchestra. 

More compositions with Classical/ fusion with World Music Styles:
*Tanko Bushi Blues, Duet for Double Bass and Bb Clarinet:  fusion of a Japanese work song with American Blues, performed 2013 NYC by members of the NY Philharmonic, Satoshi Okamoto, Double Bass and Pascual Martinez-Forteza, Bb Clarinet. 

*Two Cubas"  for String Quartet:  fusion of "Vivaldiesque" Baroque Classical with Cuban 2-3 Clave with Tango Elements, performed by the Tulsa Signature Symphony Quartet, 2017.

"Red Velvet Suite of Dances", Suite for Full Symphonic Orchestra: Classical Suite mixed with Spanish melodies ("Spanish Scherzo"), Irish Fiddling ("Garganta Del Diablo") & film score style harmonic progressions ("Obscure Waltz"). 

Recently finished a new Composition with an Irish fiddling feel: "Celtic Princess of the Danube". This piece will have a World Premiere on Friday, November 9, 2019 with Marywood University in Scranton, PA. My students love this piece! There is some dangerous sounding trick fiddling bowing that is so fun to play!

This piece is written in honor of the Celtic Princess that German archaeologists discovered 2011 in the Danube  heartland. They found the remains of a Celtic princess, from  2,600 years ago, buried with her gold and amber jewelry.

The princess had remained in her final resting place since about  609BC. This discovery is very exciting to me, as I was amazed and attracted to the gold spiral Celtic jewelry that I saw in a museum in Halstatt while on a performance tour in Austria in 2008. 



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Let's Connect

Do you have questions, want to book a show, or collaborate on a new piece? Reach out and let's make magic happen. 

Karen Naifeh Harmon

Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States

(918) 853-1561