Nancy Tutko


Name that Tune

Verve and versatility are the signature notes of many Island musicians.

To Your Harp’s Content

It wasn’t the celestial sounds of the harp’s strings nor the golden twinkle along its graceful curved neck that intrigued West Tisbury’s Nathaniel Horwitz to take up the elegant instrument. It was simply because, well, it was big.

When he was eight years old, his mother, Geraldine Brooks, told Nathaniel he would have to learn to play an instrument.

“I wanted to play the drums but she wouldn’t let me,” he remembers. “I knew how large and inconvenient harps were, so it was an attempt at revenge.”

The grandeur of the instrument, both in size and sound, is what helps make his five-and-a-half-foot harp a distinctive addition to a wedding ceremony or reception.

“The instrument itself is very impressive, almost imposing,” he says. The petite grand concert harp is also quite versatile. Nathaniel, now sixteen and classically trained, has honed his skills over the years. He plays a diverse range of styles, from traditional bridal processionals and elegant classical music to lively tangos and dance tunes.

For the past three years, Nathaniel has been trolleying his harp around the Island. He has performed at several wedding ceremonies in the past year, and during the summer he plays two to three times a week in the down-Island town centers for passersby on the streets. He’s been a regular in Vineyard Haven, where the soft sounds of the harp attract all sorts of visitors.

One day a rugged biker – with big muscles, gnarly tattoos, a black leather jacket, and a long braid – listened to every song of Nathaniel’s two-hour set.

Then, says Nathaniel, “He gave me a tip and said, ‘That’s probably the closest to heaven I’ll ever be.’”

To contact Nathaniel, e-mail or call 703-431-0527.

Let’s Hear it for the Band
Stevie Wonder, Frank Sinatra, Bob Marley, and even Lady Gaga – you name it, the Mike Benjamin Band can play it.

With guitar, bass, drums, and horns, Mike says the band’s mix of multi-generational music will have grandmothers, teenagers, and toddlers alike tapping their toes. Playing weddings on the Vineyard for the past fifteen years, Mike says performing with his fellow band members has become second nature.

“We are a tight unit and it really shows,” he says. “We barely have to look at each other; we can cue each other with the nod of an elbow.”

Their first wedding gig was happenstance: Someone heard the group playing at a bar and asked if they would perform at a wedding.

“So we did and I thought, ‘Hey, this is fun!’ We were a band that could deliver the goods,” he says. “And that’s the goal for a wedding – what are the tunes that I play well, that I enjoy playing, and get a group of folks cookin’?”

Now the band performs at about twenty-five weddings a year, from 250-plus receptions to small cocktail parties, and for clients ranging from movie stars to farmers. Mike says the band builds the energy up through each song, making sure to cater to the demographics of the crowd, one wedding at a time.

“It’s really fun because at the end of the night, you’ve totally rocked this crowd,” says Mike. “You bust out the energy and you get the energy back.”

To contact Mike (he not only sings and leads the band, but manages it too) e-mail or call 508-642-0439.