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Patricia Rushton, 1940-2010

Harpist, Composer, Artist


When I think of my friend Patricia, the word that always comes to mind is “glow.” She had an undeniable radiance that transcended age—it was as if her soul radiated light through her translucent skin. I called her Lady Moonglow; she said she liked that title. (She had a great sense of humor.)

Patricia’s inner and outer beauty were in complete harmony. I only knew her for her last five years on this Earth, so I can’t speak for what she was like as a younger being, but I believe her glow was something that just kept deepening with age. I never even knew her age until after she’d passed away, and I still can’t quite believe that she would have been 70 on October 25—she seemed truly ageless. She died last year, on July 31 at her lovely home in Hope Ranch after a six-month battle with cancer, but she was radiant to the end.

Patricia Rushton, 1940-2010
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Courtesy Photo

Patricia Rushton, 1940-2010

I first met Patricia in June 2005, when she kindly agreed to play her Celtic harp at the Braille Institute for the students there, to preview a new series of classes I was coordinating called The Joy of Harps. Leah Young, who was then the president of the local chapter of the American Harp Society and who had volunteered to participate, recruited Patricia to perform with her, so I have Leah to profusely thank for introducing us.

After that recital, Patricia became very involved with getting The Joy of Harps program going and making it a success during our first four seasons (2006-2009). Sadly, she was unable to participate in 2010 due to her illness. Previously, she had performed for the class multiple times both solo and alongside other musicians. When she wasn’t playing at the Braille Institute, she often attended just to lend support to the other harpists and to me. Her presence was always a gift, whether she was out front playing or just sitting in the back row, beaming appreciation.

As a result of The Joy of Harps, several of the Braille Institute students expressed a desire to learn how to play the harp; so in the fall of 2006, we started the Beginning Folk Harp class, which Margaret Hontos kindly volunteered to teach. Patricia assisted the students every single week—she was what I called a “harp angel.” At the end of the semester, she also volunteered to provide lessons to one of the students; she subsequently gave lessons to another student, too. She was such a giving person and never wanted to be paid for teaching the Braille harp students.

Patricia was also a most gracious hostess, with a wonderful way of making everybody feel comfortable and welcome. She hosted many delightful harp circles and other events for Harp Society members, and her emailed invitations always contained a phrase at the end that I thought expressed her philosophy beautifully: “Most important, though, is that you are here.”

Patricia’s last harp circle was her best: an unforgettable Harpoween party on October 31, 2009, with close to a dozen harpists in fantastical costumes flitting about, laughing at each other’s outfits, enjoying the delicious goodies, and eventually all sitting down to play heavenly and occasionally hilarious harp music together on her “haunted harps.” (Patricia collected harps. But when asked how many she had, she’d only say, with a mischievous twinkle, “Oh, I’m not sure.”)

Playing the harp was just one of Patricia’s passions, though it was the one that her life seemed to revolve around most in her later years. She studied and arranged traditional Celtic harp music, performed her own compositions and arrangements, taught classes in harp playing, music arranging, and creativity, and lectured on the harp as a healing instrument. She played professionally at many public and private events. In 2003, she produced and recorded Open the Door Softly, an exquisite CD of Celtic harp music. She also completed three books of music: Open the Door Softly, Songs for the Small Harp, and Arts and Letters.

In addition to these considerable achievements, Patricia was a gifted and accomplished artist and a born therapist. She studied painting at the San Francisco Art Institute after receiving her bachelor’s degree in art history from the University of Oregon. In the 1970s and 1980s, she studied art at the New School in Manhattan and produced a remarkable body of work in abstract painting, works that are found today in a number of private collections.

She subsequently earned her master’s in depth psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute. I think the thread that seemed to connect all her interests and talents was her ability to create beauty and bring comfort to others.

Patricia was a caring and loving daughter and sister. She cherished her parents, Marjorie Williams Rushton, who predeceased her by 17 months, and Roy Rushton, who was there to hold her hand as she passed from this life.

Patricia’s kindness, grace, humility, and thoughtfulness were part of what made her glow. The devotion of her longtime friends who lovingly assisted her and coordinated her care during her illness was a testament to how very, very special she was. They have created the Patricia Rushton Harp Scholarship Fund to continue her legacy.

I miss you, Lady Moonglow.

All proceeds and CD sales from Patricia’s music now go to the Patricia Rushton Harp Scholarship Fund at Folk Mote Music, 1034 Santa Barbara Street, Santa Barbara, 962-0830.



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