Kristan Toczko (HarpistKT)

Kristan Toczko is a virtuoso Canadian harpist who has found a special niche, even in the rarefied realm of classical music.

Yet she’s also one of the most widely seen and heard classical musicians in the world.

Kristan joined TikTok in 2020. Before long her posts started going viral and never stopped. Since then, hundreds of millions have watched and listened to Kristan play her harp online.

Before becoming a star in the virtual world, Kristan enjoyed a busy freelance career – playing concerts, travelling constantly and appearing with major Canadian orchestras and ensembles. It all came to a crashing halt with Covid.

That’s when Kristan discovered a virtual world of performance. She’s now able to work from anywhere and has the freedom to explore all kinds of musical genres.

If you tune in to one of her daily posts, you could get the cadenza from Swan Lake. But more likely it’ll be a hit by Metallica, a familiar refrain from the Legend of Zelda video game, even the song known to anyone with a Samsung washing machine.

Her posts are smart, sassy and incredibly skilled musical snapshots with a playful, teasing quality. She selects material in response to requests from her fans. She makes the arrangements, captures the videos and sound in her home studio and puts them out there for anyone to see.

Welcome to the 21st century world of classical music.

Kristan grew up in Moncton, New Brunswick. Her grandfather was a professional accordionist and just about every other family member played an instrument or sang, especially at family gatherings.

She first heard a harp at a Sunday church service and was instantly captivated by its expressive range and rich resonance.

Harp lessons began when she was 9. When she joined the provincial youth orchestra, she discovered the joy of being part of a bigger enterprise.

With a knack for sight reading, she advanced quickly. Her biggest passion then (and still an abiding interest) was art – graphic design, painting, photography. She also dabbled in composition and thought about becoming a film composer.

But the harp was her calling. Kristan entered the music program at McGill University as a performance major and got her Master’s at Yale, winning major competitions at both universities. She has also won the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal Competition and the CBC’s Young Artist award.

Kristan loves exploring all the different sounds a harp can make, like having an entire orchestra in one instrument. She actually prefers the intense, percussive sonorities found in rock, metal and video game music over the angelic sounds you usually associate with the orchestral harp.

Her only rule for choosing repertoire? “Is this harpable?”

And she’s recently mastered the electric harp which can be played horizontally, or like a guitar. Perfect for heavy metal complete with distortion and overdrive effects.

Now living in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Kristan continues to work as a teacher, coaching students around the world. And she’s a publisher, sharing sheet music arrangements with other musicians.

“It really doesn’t ever feel like work,” she says. “I love being able to make a difference through my harp and to be a positive light in this world, whether it’s online or onstage.”

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