Click  below to learn more about Mayling and her armonica

Associated Press - February 2001

Associated Press - February 2001

People En Espa�ol - March 1999

Hispanic Business - December 1998

New Mexico Magazine - February 1997


The Santa Fean - June 1997

Sabado Gigante



Hear Mayling playing her armonica!

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Photo by Eric O'Connell
People En Espa�ol - March 1999


Bowls of crystal that are used to keep food and to warm up leftovers in the microwave, who ever imagined that people of the 18th century used them to play music? 

Mayling Garcia, age 33, has dedicated her life to playing this instrument perfected by Benjamin Franklin in 1761. Mozart and Beethoven who composed for it, popularized the instrument. The players fell ill due to the lead content of the bowls. 
         After seeing a woman play a glass armonica in Boston, Garcia bought one and learned to play by telephone from the maker, whom she had never met. She is one of only twelve people in the world to play the instrument. Garcia lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico and is creating her first compact disc. "My life is full and my dreams are big", says Garcia.

Below is the original Spanish language version from People Magazine en Espa�ol


 Sabiamos que las vsijas de cristal se usan para guardar comida y calentar sobras en el microondas. �Qui�n imagin� que
serv�an para interpretar m�sica del siglo XVIII? Mayling Garcia, de 33 a�os, se gana la vida tocando el copof�n, instrumento perfeccionado por Benjamin Franklin en 1761, cuando mont� varios envases de cristal en un huso. Su
ejecuci�n se populariz� (Mozart y Beethoven compusieron piezas para compof�n) pero decay� cuando el plomo de las vasijas enferm� a los m�sicos. 

Garcia es una autodidacta asesorada por tel�fono desde Boston por el hombre que construy� su copof�n con vasijas de cuarzo, y al cual nunca ha visto. Una de 12 personas en el mundo que tocan este instrumento. 

Garcia de Albuquerque, Nuevo M�xico, quistera grabar un CD y afirma que el aprendizaje la ha transformado. "Mi vida est� colmada de autoestima y tengo grandes sue�os", dice. 

Triunfadores de costa a costa" People Magazine en Espa�ol. vol. 2 no. 2, p. 53 March 1999.

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Photo by Eric O'Connell

This article ran in many newspapers nationwide during the last weeks of February 2001. (AP Photos by Roberto E. Rosales.) 

Mayling Garcia plays the glass armonica for O�ate Elementary School students in Albuquerque, NM

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Armonica use may have led to Beethoven's death


CORRALES, N.M. -- A glass instrument that produces the hypnotic music of wet crystal is sounding a clarion call for debate over the lead poisoning of Beethoven. 

 The glass armonica, invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1761, was demonstrated to Ludwig van Beethoven and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart when Franklin visited France during the American Revolution. Both composers then wrote music for the instrument, which created an international sensation--and superstition. 

The instrument consists of blown crystal bowls, in graduated sizes, arrayed along a spindle that rotates while the player places moistened fingers on them. In the early history of the instrument, lead glass stemware was sometimes used instead of crystal, and leaded paint was applied to some of the bowls to differentiate those notes. 

Recent California-sponsored studies of Beethoven's hair show the composer had a concentration of lead 100 times higher than is normal today, according to the Health Research Institute in Naperville, Ill. Researchers commissioned by San Jose State University say it's virtually certain Beethoven had lead poisoning, or plumbism, which could explain some of his illnesses, his strange behavior, maybe his deafness and quite possibly his death  

Armonicist Mayling Garcia of Corrales believes Beethoven's association with a lead-glass armonica may have been instrumental in his death. Beethoven was exposed to the armonica before his symptoms started as a young man, she said. 

Rumors of lead poisoning were associated with the glass armonica, also sometimes called a glass harmonica, for years before the Beethoven study was released last October, says William Zeitler of Seattle. He is among about a dozen armonicists in the United States. 

"It's been kind of running around in the armonica community as long as I've been involved," said Zeitler, a pianist who took up the armonica six years ago. 

Modern armonicas are made in the United States by G. Finkenbeiner Inc. of Waltham, Mass., where the glass bowls are blown and the electrically rotated spindles are built. Lead glass and leaded paint are no longer used in them. 

Garcia, 35, said company founder Gerhard Finkenbeiner told her about historic armonica lead contamination--and more.  The armonica was greeted in colonial America with allegations of witchcraft. People who played it were said to have later gone insane. 

Franz Anton Mesmer, a pioneer in hypnosis and a contemporary of Franklin, used it to entrance some of his subjects.  In Germany, where the armonica was popular for years after Franklin introduced it, the instrument was banned in some states after a baby's unexplained death during a concert, according to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.  "That was the last straw," Garcia said. "People were that scared. It was literally legally banned." 

Zeitler doesn't buy the Beethoven armonica theory, saying there's nothing to substantiate it.  

A 582-strand Beethoven hair sample, taken just after his death at age 56 in 1827, was purchased at auction for $7,300 in 1994 by Ira Brilliant, founder of the Center for Beethoven Studies at San Jose State University, and Alfredo Guevara, a surgeon from Nogales, Ariz. Ludwig van Beethoven

William Meredith, director of the Center for Beethoven Studies, said it's a long stretch to prove the armonica killed Beethoven, who lived in an era when lead was everywhere--in pewter drinking vessels, dinnerware and utensils, in the leading of windows, in candles, in water pipes, in paint. 

"Perhaps he chewed on his pencils," Meredith said, "but we are very far away from knowing what was the source of Beethoven's lead poisoning." 

Garcia first heard the armonica played by a street musician in Cambridge, Mass., in 1987. "I thought: What is she doing playing for tips in a hat? She could be a star," Garcia said.  She persuaded Finkenbeiner to teach her how to play the instrument before he disappeared in May 1999, believed lost in the crash of a light plane. 

Garcia performs 50 to 100 times a year, often playing "The Star-Spangled Banner" at sports events. She has appeared on the Univision Spanish-language television show "Sabado Gigante" and gives free demonstrations at schools throughout the country. 

At a performance in January at Onate Elementary School in Albuquerque, she enthralled 30 youngsters, ages 5-11, during an after-school Campfire program. 

"I could not believe how quiet you guys were," she told the children afterward.  But that's typical, she said. When she played the national anthem at a hockey game, she said, "you could have heard a pin drop." Mayling Garcia plays her armonica by placing moistened fingers on the bowls

Benke, Richard. "Armonica use may have led to Beethoven's death." AP Wire 25 Feb. 2001, natl. ed 

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In December 1998, the editors of Hispanic Business Magazine selected a number of Hispanic-owned businesses that "possess a remarkable business concept, marketing niche, organizational approach, or success story" as winners of the 1998 Entrepreneurial Spirit Awards. Mayling was selected as one of these winners. 

Making Music from Gold and Glass

Photo by Mike Grady

"1998 Entrepreneurial Spirit Awards" Sr. Editor Joel Russell, Hispanic Business Magazine. vol. 20 no. 11, p. 46 December 1998. 

Mayling Garcia bills herself as the only Latina who plays the glass armonica - a reasonable claim given that only 100 such instruments exist in the world. Invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1761, the glass armonica works on the idea that when a wet finger rubs the rim of a wineglass, it produces a pure note. Unfortunately, Mr. Franklin built his models with lead crystal, and the players developed lead poisoning. 

In 1940, a German scientist resurrected the idea, incorporating gold instead of lead. Ms Garcia purchased a lead-free  instrument in 1993, learned to play via telephone with the German scientist, and launched her musical career under her Albuquerque-based company Mayling Garcia Glass Armonica Performer.

In addition to performing at schools and private functions, she has played three gigs on the Univision variety show "Sabado Gigante." Producers have contacted her about playing "The Star Spangled Banner" at next month's Superbowl.

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A monthly feature of New Mexico Magazine is called "Asi Es Nuevo Mexico" "This is New Mexico" which spotlights exceptional New Mexican people and organizations. Mayling was featured in the February 1997 edition. 

Albuquerque musician keeps in touch with history

 - Jim Bowman

An Albuquerque musician is doing her part to erase a blotch on the otherwise sterling record of American statesman and inventor extraordinaire, Ben Franklin.

Mayling Garcia, at 31, has become a living link to Franklin, the youngest person in the world and only Hispanic to master his illfated instrument, the glass armonica.

Franklin introduced the glass armonica - a strange cross between a harpsichord and a xylophone - in 1761. Concertgoers heralded ani invention they thought might rival the lighning rod , bifocals, and the Franklin stove in importance. Even the era's musical titans, Beethoven and Mozart, wrote compositions specifically for the instrument.

But by 1830, the last of Franklin's glass armonicas had been banished to dank storage rooms in museums and the vaults of wealthy families. The public hadn't grown tired of the sweet, high-pitched melodies produced by the armonica. But no one wanted to touch the instruments because those who did so often went stark-raving mad.

Some critics accused Franklin of fomenting witchcraft. Others conjectured that the glass armonica's piercing sounds caused players to lose their sanity.

Only in recent years has the mystery been solved. Franklin used leaded crystal in manufacturing the 45 glass bowls that form the core of the instrument. Since it's played by physically rubbing the rims of the bowls, musicians of the era fell victim to lead poisoning, absorbed directly through their fingertips and into their bloodstreams.

Garcia faces no such risk. She's playing a new, lead-free model of the glass armonica, developed by a German glass blower in the 1980s. When she first heard the strange instrument played during a concert in Harvard Square, Garcia knew she had to try her own hand at it. But because she had little formal musical training, she was reluctant to invest the several thousand dollars required to purchase a glass armonica.

After years of procrastinating, Garcia took the plunge, buying an instrument and resolved to teach herself to play "by trial and error, if need be". Eventually, she succeeded, though she admits tying up her family's phone line dialing an 800 toll-free number set up by the manufacturer to seek assistance.

Garcia now gives frequent public concerts, once playing the National Anthem on the glass armonica to open an Albuquerque Dukes baseball game. Her repertoire includes classical favorites, as well as children's songs, Christmas carols and traditional Hispanic folk tunes.

"My dad used to ask, 'Why don't you get a real job?,'" she says. "Now he's proud of what I have accomplished."

"Albuquerque musician in touch with history" Jim Bowman, New Mexico Magazine. vol. 75 no. 2, p. 16 February 1997.  Photos by Mike Grady 

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In the June 1997 edition of The Santa Fean Magazine, Mayling was featured in their regular section entitled "Tales of the 'City Different' ".

Music of the Hemispheres

-- Perrin Patterson

Witchcraft, lead-poisoning and mystery ... the armonica has a story to tell and Albuquerque-based performer Mayling Garcia intends to narrate. Inspired by water-filled musical glasses, Benjamin Franklin constructed the odd-looking instrument in 1761. Comprised of concentric glass bowls lined horizontally along a revolving rod and played with moistened finger tips, the otherworldly sounding, high-pitched instrument enjoyed global popularity - Mozart even composed a quintet for it.

The popularity ended, however, when people began to notice certain deranging effects it seemed to have on it's players. Rumors of witchcraft spread. Franklin's invention was considered his greatest failure and, "by 8130, playing the instrument in public had been banned. If you played the armonica at all, you were considered evil," says Garcia. However, she has a more logical explanation for the strange behavior attributed to glass armonica musicians; lead-poisoning. The glass bowls of the armonica were made of lead crystal, and the toxin, Garcia says, seeped through finger pores and poisoned the players.

Now, using bowls hand-blown from lead-free crystal, Garcia wants to help us rediscover this unusual instrument.. One of only six musicians in the world who play the armonica publicly, Garcia has her work cut out for her. You can often her find her carefully lugging the thirty-pound instrument to private parties and children's events across New Mexico. Call Mayling Garcia for a chance to hear this misunderstood melody-maker; she has armonica, will travel.

"Music of the Hemispheres" Perrin Patterson, The Santa Fean Magazine. vol. 25 no. 5, p. 11 June 1997. 

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Sabado Gigante is a Spanish language variety show seen on television every Saturday night by 120 million viewers in 52 countries world-wide. Mayling has appeared on the show 5 times. 

The pictures below, featuring Mayling with host Don Francisco, are from the 1998 Christmas Special. 

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Mayling performed on "America's Got Talent" nationwide on NBC during it's first season. She was one of five unique musicians vying for a chance to win a slot in the finals. Unfortunately, Mayling was not selected to move forward in the contest.

Below is a clip from her appearance on Thursday, July 27, 2006. This is a selection from "Over the Rainbow", music by Harold Arlen.

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Mayling Garcia can be contacted at the number and address above
 or by e-mail at


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