Special Reports

MA Top 30 Professional: Yolanda Kondonassis

December 5, 2023 | By John Fleming

Head, Harp Department
Cleveland Institute of Music

Harp soloist Yolanda Kondonassis has been featured on more than 20 albums, but her latest release, Five Minutes for Earth, is something special. The album, on the Azica label, has short works for solo harp that Kondonassis commissioned from 15 composers, including Michael Daugherty, Reena Esmail, Stephen Hartke, and Aaron J. Kernis. Not only is the new music a significant contribution to the harp repertoire, but it also serves as a source of monetary contributions to environmental causes via Kondonassis’ Earth at Heart nonprofit organization, whose mission is to inspire “earth conservation awareness and action through the portal of the arts.”

“Each piece is roughly five minutes long and expresses some condition or atmosphere of Earth,” Kondonassis said. “The brief length is a metaphor for how little time collective humanity has to recognize that we have nothing unless we have a place to live.”

Kondonassis developed a “pay it forward” process for musicians who play works from the album along with others she is adding to the collection. The Earth at Heart website contains links to sheet music for the works and directions on how to verify a performance and generate an automatic donation from the organization to the Nature Conservancy, the Ocean Conservancy, the Rainforest Alliance, the Sierra Club Foundation, the Environmental Defense Fund, or the World Wildlife Fund.

“So far we have been able to do a minimum donation of $100 per performance,” said Kondonassis, who is on the lookout for smaller environmental groups to add to the list of beneficiaries. “We hope that with time and momentum the donations can be more. All the composers waived their commission fees. That is a substantial in-kind contribution to the cause. I was so gratified.”

Kondonassis gave premieres of works from Five Minutes for Earth in a 2022 concert at the Cleveland Museum of Art. In March 2024, her solo performance with the BlueWater Chamber Orchestra in Cleveland will include the premiere of the harp and orchestra version of the first track on the album, Takuma Itoh’s Kohola Sings, which celebrates the sounds of the humpback whale.




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