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Music, Social Studies

Brien Engel, Glass Harp

Glass Harp Music

About the Artist

Brien Engel is an explorer of unusual sounds coaxed out of everyday things. His main passion is  the glass harp, an instrument comprised of 50 wine glasses, which he plays by rubbing his fingers on their rims. This enchanting art form dates back to the 18th century, and Brien is one of very few modern practitioners worldwide. His repertoire includes pieces by Mozart, Bach, and Haydn as well as popular standards, ice cream truck songs, and the occasional heavy metal request. 

He has developed a nationally-acclaimed arts-in-education performance. He plays from an  eclectic repertoire, weaving history and sound physics throughout the program, as well as a  segment of musical saw, and his miniature glass armonica, a design invented by Benjamin Franklin.

Artist Video

Learn all about the Glass Harp, or "musical glasses," while becoming inspired to make your own music with everyday items found at home!

During a Glass Harp Music assembly program, Brien performs music of different styles and periods, playing the glass harp. The program explores musical instruments made from  everyday materials, the history of glass and water-tuned music, and related concepts of physics and sound.

 The program includes many participatory segments. Water tuning is demonstrated with water and soup bowls. Spring Vibration is demonstrated using a goblet and a Ping-Pong ball. A  string and recreation of a violin bow as seen under a microscope are used to demonstrate string friction. Musical saw is also featured, and related back to the sound physics concepts.  Another segment of the program introduces Ben Franklin's invention (and the first American musical instrument), the glass armonica. Questions and song requests are welcome towards  the end of the assembly.

Grade LevelsK-12
Maximums300 students per contact, 45-50 minutes, 6/day
Technical Requirements

School/other venue provides two rectangular tables ("six-footers") and three chairs, access to power receptacle in performance area. I will supply all sound equipment and everything else. 

Total Fee1 performance - $572 / 2 performances (same school, same day) - $858 / 3 performances (same school, same day) - $1,045 / 4 performances (same school, same day - $1,210
School Portion1 performance - $286 / 2 performances (same school, same day) - $429 / 3 performances (same school, same day) - $523 / 4 performances (same school, same day - $605


“The Glass Harp and other Musical Oddities” movie is a Glass Harp concert, interwoven with many educational segments. These cover sound physics, the history of glass-making and glass music, how-to tips for aspiring glass musicians, examples of many other home-made musical instruments, and a segment on Benjamin Franklin’s invention, the Glass Armonica.
The musical menu of this arts-in-education feast includes:

  • A bit of Bach’s Partita in E Major
  • St. Anthony’s Choral/Variations of a theme by Haydn (Haydn/Brahms)
  • “La Poupée,” from Bizet’s Jeux d'Enfants (Children's Games)
  • Ice cream truck song — Stodola Pumpa
  • Ice cream truck song — Mr. Softee theme
  • De Tierra Lejana Venimos, a Villancico (Christmas Carol)
  • Hypnotic for Glass II, one of Brien’s originals
  • Japanese Water Garden, by Stephen Goss
  • A bit of Over the Rainbow, played on musical saw
  • Adagio in C Major for Glass Armonica, by Mozart

Instructional segments of the movie are strategically peppered throughout, and include many of Brien’s in-person assembly demonstrations, freshly filmed in close-focus, professional 1080p— with a few new surprises! As always, study guides are sent in advance. Glass Harp Preview



WHAT: For the five-day package, two optional half-hour “Meet the Artist” sessions with students and teachers using Google Meet or Zoom conferencing, to supplement the movie and wrap up the program. Or one session, for the half-day package.
WHEN: Over the period of access to movie, or as closely timed as possible. At the facilitators’ discretion for best scheduling, but subject to artist’s calendar too.
WHAT HAPPENS: In addition to “Meet the Artist” being a Q/A session, students may make musical requests. Glass Harp will be present on webcam, along with musical saw, and a few other instruments.
Customizations for “Meet the Artist” sessions are possible, for example:

  • Students could show off their own improvised musical creations to each other, and artist.
  • Demonstration of mbira, another musical instrument, from Zimbabwe.
  • Demonstration of water pot guitar, another improvised musical instrument.

Possible curriculum-related topics which artist can pre-plan with teachers to discuss on webcam:

  • What is resonance? What is resonant frequency? (sound physics)
  • Why will a glass also lower in pitch when submerged partly in water? (sound physics)
  • What is the doppler effect? (sound physics)
  • How do other sound effects work? what is Foley sound? How did they make a wind or thunder sounds, for example, in movie studios or in radio?
  • Teacher/Facillitators ideas-- What would you like your “Meet the Artist” session to include?
Grade LevelsK-12
MaximumsOne School
Technical Requirements

The movie will be accessible via secure link for either five days, or one half-day, to a school. Teachers may assign it as homework, or woven into daily instruction.
As an optional part two of this package, Brien offers “Meet the Artist” sessions via Zoom, Google Meet, or your choice of conferencing service during the access period.
“Meet the Artist,” in addition to a Q/A opportunity with teachers and students, gives students a chance to make live musical requests. Teachers are welcome to customize the sessions in advance with Brien at no extra charge, to cover
their topics of choice or current projects with students.

Total FeeFive Days/One School: Movie Access plus two "Meet the Artist" Sessions - $462 / One Half-Day/One School: Movie Access plus One "Meet The Artist" Session - $276
School PortionFive Days/One School: Movie Access plus two "Meet the Artist" Sessions - $231 / One Half-Day/One School: Movie Access plus One "Meet The Artist" Session - $138


  • Melanie E. Darby, Education Manager, Spivey Hall, Clayton State University, 678-466-4481
  • Eddy McGee, Executive Director, Stokes County Arts Council, 336-593-8159


Glass Harp Website