The James River Harp Ensemble, formed by Beth Dechent, is a group of Richmond, Virginia-based harpists.  A couple of the musicians play other instruments in addition to the harp, adding another dimension to the Ensemble.  The group plays year-round in various venues, including churches, retirement communities, and festivals.  Please contact us if you would like JRHE to play for you.


Beth Dechent, Director

Beth is the Director and teacher for the JRHE. She is a professional musician whose career began when she changed her college major from percussion to harp performance. She played principle harp with the Roanoke, VA Symphony for many years. She currently plays with the Waynesboro, VA Symphony and the Richmond Pops Band. She is a professional musician who plays for all types of events. She has taught beginning through collegiate level harp for 37 years.

Sallie Bartholomew

Sallie began her musical journey as a young child with piano lessons from her mother. She began  harp as an adult and is a long-time member of the JRHE. She is a Registered Nurse and works for Healthways/ Bon Secours Richmond, providing care and education for people with diabetes. Sallie lives in Richmond with her husband and two children with whom she enjoys playing music.

Jan Dowdell

Jan began studying music at age 7, under Josephine Little. Her studies continued at Fairmont State College with Dr. Jerry Gilmer, piano, and Janet Gilmer, voice. Playing the harp was a childhood dream which came true after moving to Richmond, VA. There she found a harp and a wonderful teacher, Beth Dechent. In addition to being a member of the JRHE,  Jan plays 2nd harp for the Richmond Pops Band. She is a professional and liturgical organist. She owns Grand Staff Studios where she has taught for over 30 years. It is her privilege and joy to “teach little fingers to play music with God’s gentle touch of love”

Gita Massey

Gita started her musical journey with the piano in the first grade. She began playing the harp recently, as an adult, and is a long-standing member of the JRHE.  Gita is an amateur musician who also works at Children’s Hospital of Richmond – VCU Health as a pediatric hematologist-oncologist. She would like to thank Beth Dechent and her JRHE colleagues for the many happy hours she has shared “harping” with them, and her husband, Davis, for his kindness in always transporting the harp.

Dennis Saidat

Dennis began music as a child singing in the children’s church choir. He added clarinet in grade school and later, the recorder. He sang with the Richmond Symphony Chorus and studied flute at  Virginia Commonwealth Univ. He plays bagpipes with the St Andrews Legion Pipes and Drums. Hearing Scottish harp music led him to the harp. In July 2014 he placed first in the Journeyman category of the Scottish Harp Society’s harp competition at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. Dennis owns and operates his own business, a hair salon, in the Carytown area  of Richmond.

Margaret Swartz

Margaret has been playing the harp for six years. In earlier years she played piano, harpsichord and viola.  She has practiced law for over 30 years in various settings, most recently in her own firm where she focuses on SBA real estate loans.  She enjoys making music with other people, including her family of string musicians.

Jan Darr

Jan is a retired 4th grade teacher.  As a youth, she played violin and sang in choirs.  She also was a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Women’s Barbershop Sweet Adelines in the 80’s.  Her retirement bucket list #1 was to learn to play the harp, especially Christmas music.  Virginia Harp Center connected her with Beth Dechent, and she has been making music ever since.

Stacy Lovelace

Stacy is one of the newer members of the JRHE and has been playing the harp for two years.  She is a former chemical engineer and now stay-at-home mom of two toddlers.

Janet Winslow

Lynn Muller

Andrea Stern



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