2018 Presenter Biographies


Mara Galassi (born in Milan in 1956) is an Italian harpist, musicologist, and recording artist specializing in the music for early harps, including gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque instruments, in particular double (cross-strung) and triple harps of the Renaissance and Baroque eras, as well as Classical-era single-action pedal harps.

She holds degrees from Pesaro Conservatory of Music and the Civica Scuola di Musica di Milano. She studied historical performance practice under harpsichordist David Collyer in Amsterdam and lutenist Patrick O’Brien in New York City, and musicology with Michael Morrow in London.

Ms. Galassi is a professor of modern and historical harps at the Civica Scuola di Musica di Milano and a founding member of the Historical Harp Society. She is active as a soloist and as a member of early music ensembles, including Hesperion XX (dir. Jordi Savall), Concerto Soave, Concerto Vocale (dir. René Jacobs), Concerto Italiano (dir. Rinaldo Alessandrini), Mala Punica (dir. Pedro Memelsdorff), and Cantus Cölln (dir. Konrad Junghänel). Her CD Il Viaggio di Lucrezia won both the “Cannes Award” and the “Choc de la Musique” award.


David Brown is a lute and harp builder, conservator, and repair technician in Baltimore, Maryland. He has worked on several projects for museums, such as the Este harp in the Galleria Estense in Modena, Italy. He has contributed to various seminars, symposia, and courses regarding early instrument construction. Current ongoing work has carried his interest to the later evolution of Welsh triple harp construction from the 18th into the 19th century.



Paul Knoke began his work with historic musical instruments while a student at Brighton High School. He spent two years working with the collection of instruments at the Rochester Museum and Science Center as an Independent Studies course. His Junior year whilst earning a degree in history at the University of Rochester included a semester abroad as an intern with the musical instrument collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. While there, he organized and catalogued the museum’s files of reference photographs of instruments, and designed and implemented new display techniques for the instrument gallery. In addition to piano, organ, and harpsichord, Paul studied harp with Marie Goossens and Nan Gullo. While studying with Dr. Gullo he spent several years working through all available 18th century French harp method books, studying the technique of the period. He has been the principal harpist of the Brighton Symphony Orchestra for 24 years. Mr. Knoke is a charter member and past president of the Historical Harp Society, and has lectured and performed at several of their conferences. In 2007 he was invited to act as guest curator for the Mildred Dilling Harp Collection, now on permanent display at Indiana University.  In 2012 he performed in concert at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and at the 40th Conference of the American Harp Society on an 18th century harp from his collection.


Samuel Milligan’s interest in early music began in high school in the 1940s; was encouraged by his graduate school advisor, Dr. Helen Hewitt of Odhecaton fame; and was later moved in a Spanish direction by Nicanor Zabaleta. His main interests are music of the Spanish New World and medieval cantigas, both sacred and secular. His latest publication is a collection of nine Sephardic songs.




Christopher Preston Thompson is a New York City based tenor, actor, and historical harpist. He has performed as a soloist in venues throughout the United States, including New York City’s Carnegie Hall, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Music at the Graduate Center, CUNY. Christopher is the founding Artistic Director of Concordian Dawn, Ensemble for Medieval Music. Credits include performances with Gotham Early Music Scene, Pomerium, The Broken Consort, Toby Twining Music, Grand Harmonie, Tucson Desert Song Festival, Encompass New Opera Theater, Heartbeat Opera, and On Site Opera. His work as a scholar includes presentations and workshops on medieval vocal and instrumental repertoire and performance practice for such institutions as Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, the CUNY Graduate Center, and the Modern Language Association. Christopher is a faculty member at Lehman College and at Rutgers University–Newark, New Jersey.


Since 2005, tenor James Ruff has focused his energies on researching and performing both the early Scottish Gaelic song and the early Gaelic wire harp repertoires. He currently enjoys presenting concerts of this music at festivals and on music series such as the Scoil na gCláirseach Festival of the Early Irish Harp in Kilkenny, Ireland; the Boston Early Music Festival Fringe; Gotham Early Music Scene Midtown Concerts in New York; and more. He has studied Scottish Gaelic song with award winning Scottish singers Kenna Campbell, Mary Ann Kennedy, and Christine Primrose, and early harp techniques with noted Irish harpist Siobhan Armstrong. In both 2016 and 2017, he won the Gold Medal in Gaelic Song at both the U.S. National Gaelic Mòd and the ACGA North Carolina Gaelic Mòd. He was also a finalist in the Silver Pendant Gaelic Song Competition at the 2009 Royal National Mòd in Oban, Scotland.


Born in Tokyo, Tomoko Sugawara began to play the Irish harp at age twelve and the concert grand harp at sixteen. A graduate of Tokyo University with a degree in Fine Arts, Sugawara first took up the kugo in 1991. She has performed on both the kugo and the concert grand harp in many major international venues, including the New York Qin Society; the Fifth Symposium for Music Archaeology; World Harp Congresses in Prague, Amsterdam, and Vancouver; the Early Music Guild of Seattle; the British Museum; the Central China Conservatory of Music (Beijing); the Symposium on Historical Harps in Berlin; and the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, as well as at many other academic institutions including Harvard University, Meiji University, Columbia University, Princeton University, University of Illinois, University of Pennsylvania, and Indiana University.

Tomoko was awarded a fellowship from the Asian Cultural Council during 2007–2008 and a grant from the Rohm Music Foundation in 2007. Her first CD, Spring, features her work as a soloist on the concert harp; her second, East Meets West (1998), was an improvisational duo collaboration with saxophonist Sanshiro Fujimoto. Along the Silk Road (2010) is her third CD. In 2009, she performed in the ensemble of jazz bass legend Charnett Moffett for his Motéma release, Treasure. Tomoko has added basso continuo and ornamentation on the Baroque harp to her specializations. She lives in New York City.