Victoria man uses God's gift of talent and skill from dad to build and play harps

  • DID YOU KNOW ... ?n Scott DeVos gets his wood for the harps from a variety of sources.

    There's the walnut from Illinois, mesquite from Texas and even a piece of oak from Victoria's hanging tree that he got ...

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  • DID YOU KNOW ... ?n Scott DeVos gets his wood for the harps from a variety of sources.

    There's the walnut from Illinois, mesquite from Texas and even a piece of oak from Victoria's hanging tree that he got from Texana Furniture Co.

    Prices for the harps range from about $1,000 for the smaller ones to $3,000 for the larger ones.

    The hangin' tree

    I once was an oak tree with limbs huge and strong. I cast a great shadow over a fine green trimmed lawn,

    Where people would gather to get out of the sun, where weddings were held and people had run, to escape a May shower till the clouds surely pass.

    But it wasn't those memories that always would last, it was the dark gloomy one's way back in my past, it wasn't the weddings or the joyful songs sung but the noose around the neck, you see I was where the bad men were hung.

    Many limbs have since fallen as my years surely part and Scott has made me into a tall slender harp, now the years that remain I'll sing chords to be sung and forget the many men from my limbs that were hung.

    Written by Scott DeVos in 2002 after using a plank from Victoria's hanging tree for one of his harps

Scott DeVos gives credit to God for his ability to play the harp and to his dad for the skill to build them.

"I say it's a gift from God because I have the ability to pick up any kind of instrument that has strings," said the 48-year-old Victoria man. "If it has strings, I can play it."

DeVos, a guitarist for 39 years, said there was a time when he thought he would never get involved with any instrument but the guitar.

That all changed nearly 15 years ago when he and his wife visited a mall in Houston. The music they heard was coming from a harp being played by a woman in one of the stores.

"I mean, it got my attention right away," said DeVos, supervisor in the building service department at Citizens Medical Center. "She was playing some Irish music."

When she finished playing, he pumped her for all the information he could get about the harp. That sparked a fevered research about the instrument that eventually led to him building harps.

Victoria resident Paula Nersesian bought one of the custom harps for her daughter, who was about 7 at the time.

"It was a work of art," she said. "It was absolutely incredible."

Her daughter is 22 today and doesn't spend much time playing the harp. But Nersesian said she has it displayed in her living room.

"Everyone is always intrigued by it," she said.

After seeing price tags of $4,000 and $5,000 for name-brand harps, it didn't take DeVos long to figure out building them from scratch would be cheaper. And the prospect of designing and cutting the wood didn't intimidate him because his dad had been in construction most of his life.

"I knew that whatever I got into, if I needed help on any kind of cuts that he would be able to show me," DeVos said. "Within one year of when I saw that lady play, I built the first lap harp."

Still, building harps from scratch can be difficult, he said. It takes a lot of tender-loving care because it's possible to remove too much wood during the cutting, and that wood can't be put back, he said.

"So, it's cutting a little bit and a whole lot of sanding," DeVos said. "You have to set out there and sand for several hours."

He also creates all of his own designs and it takes months of planning to settle on the best woodburning patterns, inlays and other decorative work.

He estimated he's built 30 to 35 harps over the past 14 years.

He's also played places from the King Ranch in South Texas to Illinois. He's played for churches, hospice patients, all three country clubs in Victoria, a wedding reception at the Oak Room and a dinner party for award-winning musician Ray Price.

DeVos' wife, Mary, said she supports what he does, and, although the house can get messy when he's building a harp, there are advantages.

"A lot of times the parts are all over the place in the house and out in the garage," she said. "But I get to go with him to a lot of places I never would have ever gone to."

How much longer does DeVos plan to build and play the harp? Probably the rest of his life, he said.

"It's something that gets into your blood and draws you to it," he said. "For me, it's like a way of life."