Ted Nichelson, Harpist

Frequently Asked Questions  

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Q: How did you decide on how much to charge?

A: One thing to keep in mind when hiring a musician is that you are seeking the service of a highly skilled professional rather than buying a product. In order to determine how much to charge, I keep in touch with many professional harpists in the Los Angeles area to get a general idea of what the going rate is for not only harpists but for other musicians. I want to be affordable but also not undercut my colleagues. All harpists are friends of mine so we don’t really like to feel as though we are competing against one another. In addition, The Harp Column magazine has done a national survey to find out what harpists are charging based upon geographic area. I also take into consideration the annual cost of my advertising, instrument insurance, dry cleaning of my tuxedos, and instrument maintenance expenses (which can be quite expensive). My fee for weddings includes all email correspondence, telephone consultations, time to prepare all the musical selections, organizing my music notebooks to accommodate your requests, packing up my harp, loading it into my car, unloading at your event location, setting-up, tuning, and packing up again. All of this can add up to numerous hours, most weddings require an average of 8-10 hours of my time from the first point of contact to the end of your ceremony. In addition to all of these details, I have been a professional harpist since for over 15 years, have played in over 1,000 events, and have a doctoral degree in music. 


Q: What if my wedding is not very long?

Harpists generally do not contract weddings "by the minute." You will find that most reputable musicians have a base fee for all wedding ceremonies regardless of how long the service may run. Even short wedding ceremonies require considerable effort to transport, set-up, tune the harp, and to be all ready to go on time. Extras such as the cocktail hour and special music may be subject to an additional charge. 

For special events other than weddings, charges for background music begins with a base fee for the first 75 minutes, and then has a sliding scale for every additional 60 minutes.


Q: Do you do in-person consultations?

A: Everything you will need should be available through my website and the information packet I send out. In-person consultations are not necessary. If you do wish to meet with me in my home, there is a $50 fee per musician that you want to hear perform. For example, to meet with me alone is $50 but if you want the flute and harp duo the fee is $100.


Q: If we decide to hire you, what happens next?

A: I will need your full name and address so that I can send you a packet of information. This includes an instructional letter with complete directions, my business card, and the Performance Agreement – make one copy for yourself and return the signed copy to me with your deposit by the designated due date in the provided self-addressed, stamped envelope.


Q: How do we select our music?

A: You will go to the Audio Clips  page on my website and fill in your selections on the Wedding Worksheet. It’s very simple. You should submit your Wedding Worksheet no less than 10 days before your wedding. If you are looking for a song not listed, let me know and I can check to see if I have it. If not, sometimes the sheet music can be purchased online for download. Don't hesitate to contact me with any questions.


Q: Can you play for the cocktail hour after the ceremony?

A: I may be able to play afterwards for your cocktail hour, but under the condition that it is being held on the same property as your ceremony.  If you want me to pack up and move my harp to a new venue, that is considered a separate job which would require a second Performance Agreement.


Q: Do you carry liability insurance?

A: Many locations excuse the harpist from liability, or do not even bring up the topic, so this is probably not an issue. If your event location does require liability insurance for the harpist, you will need to contract me through a booking agent I use specifically for this purpose. His fee is $50 on top of my normal charge, and his company carries liability insurance. I also have a indemnification clause in my contract with clients that excludes me from liability claims.


Q: Can I go watch you perform at another wedding?

A: Generally this is frowned upon by wedding coordinators, and I discourage it, because weddings are private affairs that are usually by invitation only for close family and friends. I can provide you with the wedding contact info, and you are welcome to contact them on your own to request an invitation. You may also want to view my promotional video.


Q: You charge for mileage? Why?

A: We all know that driving on the Los Angeles freeway system can be quite treacherous. Even a short trip of 10 miles can take a very long time! Some locations, which may be only 30-40 miles, require me to be in my car one or two hours before I finally arrive - especially in the summer and on holidays. The mileage fee reimburses me for my time and effort transporting my harp safely to your event location. In addition, mileage reimbursement has been a standard charge used by most professional musicians for many years. 


Q: How long will you play for?

A: I will play for however long it takes for your wedding ceremony to be completed. I don’t set a timer and then run away when an alarm goes off. I want everyone to feel relaxed and I will adjust to your circumstances. Please note that if you elect me to also play at your cocktail hour, there is an extra charge.


Q: What is your background?

A: I have a doctoral degree in music, and have played the harp for over 1000 events in Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, and California. You can read my full biography here.


Q: How long have you been performing on the harp?

A: I have been playing professionally for over 20 years.


Q: How many weddings have you played for?

A: I have played the harp at more than 1,200 weddings. 


Q: Do you require a deposit?

A: Yes, I ask for a $50 non-refundable deposit that you send in along with your signed Performance Agreement.


Q: When and how do we pay you?

A: I require the remaining balance on your contract to be paid seven days prior to your ceremony or event. 


Q: Can you accompany my (best friend/sister-in-law/mother/etc.) who wants to sing or perform a special song?

A: There may be additional charge for me to accompany your friend or family member singing or performing a special song in your wedding. It depends on what the piece is and how much preparation it requires. If I have played the song before then usually there is no problem. I always advise clients to be confident in the musical ability of their performer before they decide to put them up in front of an audience. “Cousin Frank” may have had a few violin lessons, but that doesn’t always mean he is ready to perform. I also reserve the right to decline to accompany someone if the piece does not transfer well to the harp. I am happy to discuss your specific requests and then try to work something out.


Q: Do you perform with another musician as a duo, such as flute and harp?

A: Yes, I perform with Sara Andon, who is one of the top flautists in Los Angeles. You can read more about our flute and harp duo here. We now also offer a Harp, Flute and Cello trio with cellist Vicki Bacon. Harp and violin is another option.


Q: Do you play outside? What if it rains or is threatening weather?

A: Yes, I often play outside. I have a space on the Performance Agreement for the client to describe the location so that I can accommodate it. I also appreciate speaking with the client about outdoor locations so that I have a good understanding about what to expect. I do reserve the right to not play outside if there is threatening weather, or if the circumstances threaten the safety of my harp or me. All clients with outdoor wedding locations must have an inclement weather plan.


Q: The venue charges for parking, will you pay for that?

A: I do not pay for parking and ask the bridal party to reimburse me or validate my parking.


Q: What if my wedding starts late?

A: You should make every effort to make sure your wedding starts on time. Unfortunately, when there is a problem sometimes I am not kept updated by the family about the reason why. This ultimately causes confusion.  Examples of problems I have encountered are issues with the florist or a family member who is lost or stuck in traffic. I ask clients to designate someone to keep me updated periodically. If this courtesy is ignored, I reserve the right to charge an extra $25 if the ceremony starts more than 15 minutes late.


Q: What kind of harp do you play on and how much does it cost?

A: My harp is a Lyon & Healy Style 85 Concert Grand, which is a standard model. My harp plus accessories, such as my amplifier, is worth approximately $20,000.


Q: Do you have an amplifier?

A: Yes, I perform with an amplifier that I provide so that my harp can easily be heard by everyone attending your event.


Q: Do you need someone to meet you when you arrive and to provide cues?

A: Yes. You will need to designate someone on your wedding day who will answer their cell phone in case of any problems and to meet me when I arrive. I will need to be shown where the harp is to be set up, an update on the schedule, and then to cue me when the family and bridal party is ready to process in.


Q: What do you wear when you perform?

A: I usually wear a tuxedo, but also can wear a suit, shirt/slacks/tie, or another combination that you request.


Q: What happens if there an accident or unforeseen event on my wedding date?

A: I ask all clients to have a recording of comparable music ready (via iPod, iTunes, etc.) in the case of any unforeseen event on your wedding date. Always expect the unexpected! Accidents do happen, especially on the freeway, so I strongly suggest you have a “Plan B” for the music. Be assured that I do not miss weddings.


Q: Do you attend wedding rehearsals?

A: No, I usually do not attend wedding rehearsals. If your Wedding Worksheet is filled out properly there should be no problems with the music at your ceremony. I can adjust based upon the circumstances, but I strongly suggest you advise everyone in your wedding party to walk slowly down the aisle and have them listen to a sample from my website of the song they will be coming in with so that they won’t start out too early.


Q: Do you want to stay for dinner at the reception? Do you trade food for work?

A: Usually I am not able to stay for dinner at your reception, and frequently I am tired from the traveling, performing, and hauling my harp around. On occasion I have stayed around briefly for something to eat if I am invited. I do not trade food for work.