Lisa Stine was in the Bay Area celebrating the arrival of her fourth grandchild when her cell phone rang. A friend — who was at Stine’s Nevada City house to water her plants — noticed the back door standing open.
When Stine arrived home and walked through her door, she was stunned.
“I thought maybe they would steal my computer, TV or jewelry — but it never occurred to me it would be the harps. They took them all.”
Stine, known to many as “the harp lady,” has spent more than three decades spreading goodwill through the strings of her harp.
“Over the years, Lisa has volunteered to play at countless fundraisers,” said longtime friend Betsy Abrams. “She’s played for decades at charity events, convalescent homes, nonprofits, churches, arts organizations and with children at the Celtic Festival — you name it — she’s extremely generous.”
For the past 15 years, Stine has also led a harp therapy support group at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital for cancer patients, cancer survivors and their families. Although it is a paid position, Stine bought 20 harps for the hospital’s cancer center with her own money.
Six of those were stolen from Stine’s home between Aug. 23 and 28, along with two of her large beloved harps, one of which she has played for 20 years and is no longer made.
“I know my harps so intimately — no two are the same,” said Stine, who played Thursday at a friend’s funeral on a borrowed harp. “I realize there are people out there who are in much worse situations. I’m not destitute, I have a job, yet there is just something so personal about this.”
Stine is much more comfortable giving than receiving, say those who know her, yet she has reluctantly allowed friends and fellow musicians to rally around her in the form of donations and fundraisers. Abrams said the amount Stine will receive from her insurance company will “not come anywhere near what has been lost.”
Word of the burglary spread through the music community like wildfire, said Stine, and the outpouring has been overwhelming. On Wednesday, a member of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra offered to lend her a harp.
“I’ve had literally hundreds of people reaching out to me — I’m blown away,” she said. “I’ve had at least 30 harpists from all over the world asking me, ‘Can I lend you a harp?’ Today I heard from someone in Ireland.”
Stine, whose “day job” is teaching high school ESL and GED classes, said she was moved when some of her students cried when they heard her story. Over the years, Stine has also taught at the county jail and the department of mental health, in addition to giving private music lessons.
One of her more notable private students, internationally acclaimed musician Joanna Newsom, has offered to put on a fundraising concert on Stine’s behalf.
“Because of how much Lisa has given to the community, it’s important that she accept what’s being given to her,” said Abrams. “She needs to let people step up and help.”
A cash reward is now being offered for information that leads to the recovery of stolen items — which include heirloom jewelry — and fliers are being distributed to local pawn shops. Stine’s two children have paid for a burglar alarm to be installed in her home, and an account at the Grass Valley Bank of America has been set up for donations on Stine’s behalf under “Lisa Stine Harps.”
“They say there’s a reason for everything,” said Stine. “Maybe this is for me to understand just how incredibly giving this community is. I’m feeling all this love — it’s overwhelming.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at email@example.com or call 530-477-4203.