MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Some performances take more practice than others.

Even with 30 years of experience, Terri Tacheny practices Pachelbel’s Cannon in D at her St. Paul home for an upcoming wedding.  But, classical sheet music isn’t Terri’s preferred style.

“The relationship between myself and the harp changed the minute I put my music away,” said Terri Tacheny.

Terri prefers to take center stage for an unlikely audience–primates.

“They appear to be enjoying it.  They came forward to listen,” said Tacheny.

The Como Zoo primates hear the melodic tones of her instrument as part of the volunteer enrichment program.

“Enrichment is very stimulating for the animals. It’s both mental and physical stimulation,” said Allison Jungheim, head zookeeper at Como Zoo.  “It’s something different.  They don’t necessarily hear it on a given day.  They hear the crowds, and the kids, and everything like that.  This is a totally different type of music and it’s relaxing for them, actually.”

Terri, a therapeutic harpist, knows the soothing sound of her harp has the same calming effect on animals as it does humans.

“Why wouldn’t they respond to music like we do?  They’re so similar,” Tacheny said.

Terri started performing eight years ago and has learned each primate species takes in the music differently.

The orangutans aren’t as willing to show their appreciation for performance.

“I don’t hear vocalizations from the orangs. They’re quiet. They listen and chew their vegetables,” Tacheny said.

The zoo’s three male gorillas are a much easier audience.

“They’re very similar to kindergarten boys who come running up in the classroom and they all want to sit in front of the harp,” she said.

She’ll never hear applause or cheers for an encore.  Primates show their approval in a different way

“No one’s ever spit at me,” said Terri.  “The gorillas have never thrown anything at me.  I guess that says something.”

But every so often she’ll earn the equivalent of a standing ovation.  As she plays she’ll hear a deep growl from the gorillas.  Zookeepers refer to it as the gorilla purr.

“That says they’re pleased or enjoying the music or happy you’re here,” Terri said.

For a lifelong musician, it’s the kind of compliment that strikes the right chord.

“It’s heart opening because you know there’s somebody there.  They are so intelligent,” Terri said.

Terri plays at Como Zoo once a month.  She has also played for other animals, like the big cats and polar bears.

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