Roger Himmell remembers hauling his daughter’s heavy harp to all of her concerts and performances. A neighbor eventually designed a dolly so he wouldn’t have to carry Michelle’s harp anymore. Then he carried her bench, music stands and anything else she needed, he remembers with a laugh.
“Even at a young age Michelle was a very talented musician,” Roger Himmell recalls. “As one of the few harpists in the area, she was in high demand.”
She was already becoming a professional by the time she was in 10th grade at Miami Valley School in Dayton, Ohio, says Vivienne Himmell. “Michelle was recruited to play Christmas Eve at every church you could possibly think of.”
The young musician went on to earn a BA in music from Case Western Reserve University, where she studied harp with Alice Chalifoux, and a BS in management. In 1981 she earned a MM in harp performance from CCM.
Michelle was classically trained but loved to infuse varying styles into her harp repertoire. She took lessons with CCM jazz professor emeritus Phil DeGreg on how to incorporate jazz style into her harp playing. Her technique proved to be successful and she became known as a very diverse artist, says longtime friend Larry Jones.
“She made quite a few records and got better and better,” says Jones. “A lot of it was her own interpretation and improvisation. She enjoyed fun music and creating new arrangements on the spot.”
Michelle played the harp nightly for 18 years at the Riverview Revolving Restaurant, now known as Eighteen at the Radisson in Covington. She also played harp for 13 years at the Cincinnatian hotel and routinely played at the Drake hotel in Chicago when she was in the area to perform with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago.