Alisa Nakashian-Holsberg is a graduate of Bentley College and studied music theory with the late composer/conductor Rouben Gregorian. In 1984, Alisa was introduced to Benjamin Franklin’s invention, the glass armonica, by scientific glass blower Gerhard Finkenbeiner of Waltham, MA. Captivated by this unique instrument, Alisa researched its history, and personally tuned and assembled her own instrument. She is the first modern-day performer to combine her vocal talents with Franklin's armonica, and has been delighting audiences all over New England.

A Brief History of the Glass Armonica

Alisa Nakashian-Holsberg with Ralph Archbold as Ben Franklin. Photo courtesy of Dennis James, Wheaton Village
Alisa Nakashian-Holsberg with Ralph Archbold as Ben Franklin. Photo courtesy of Dennis James, Wheaton Village.

The Glass Harmonica was invented in 1761 by America’s founding father, Benjamin Franklin. He was inspired to do so, after attending a London concert given on the musical glasses (upright glasses played by rubbing with wet fingers). Because of his love for and in honor of the Italian language, he named his invention the “Armonica”.

Paganini called it an “Angelic Organ,” with “such a celestial voice”. Dr. Franz Anton Mesmer used it to (mesmerize) treat his patients. Mozart, Beethoven, and Donizetti composed for it. Thomas Jefferson claimed it was "the greatest gift offered to the musical world”.

In 1982, Gerhard Finkenbeiner produced the first 20th century prototype made with quartz glass, quickly setting into motion the armonica’s current-day revival. Sadly, the international glass music community mourned Gerhard’s sudden disappearance on May 6th, 1999. His friends and colleagues at G. Finkenbeiner Inc. continue to build the instrument today.

More online history sources for the glass armonica:


Alisa Performing at the Museum of Fine Arts


Video ©2012 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Reproduced with permission.

August 14, 2012; Armonica (musical glasses) (17.2047), Alisa Nakashian-Holsberg performing "The Ash Grove," in Musical Instruments Gallery (103D)


Samples from Alisa's CD:


Performance Highlights

  • Revolving Museum Lowell, MA. “Uncork Your Creativity”. With award-winning guitarist Dr. Richard Strasser
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA. “Art in Bloom” preview party. “Your performance created a magical atmosphere… magnificent”, Teruko Maki, MFA Ladies Committee
  • Albany Institute of History and Art, Albany, NY. An exhibition featuring 18th and 19th century treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
  • Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. Hartford, CT. "Mezmeric Mozart," a production of Chamber Music Plus at the Museum Theater. “ truly poignant performance…”, Hartford Courant
  • Yale Press, New Haven, CT. Celebrating the publishing of the 36th volume of the Franklin Papers.
  • Arlington Street Church, Boston, MA. Benefit concert for victims of the 9/11 tragedy.
  • World Trade Center, Boston, MA. Private function attended by King Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden.
  • Glass Music International Music Festival, Philadelphia, PA,
  • Glass Music International Music Festival, Boston, MA, Invited to perform on the historic instrument in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts.
  • The Sally Franklin Monologue. Written by Dr. Richard Weiss, produced by Theater In Process, Inc. A dramatic monologue with voice and glass armonica accompaniment. Performed at numerous venues, including First Night (Boston).
  • Blanchard’s Tavern, Avon, MA. An authentic working colonial tavern and museum. Colonial entertainment with glass armonica and voice.
  • Franklin Court Museum Concert, PA.


Alisa Nakashian-Holsberg
P.O. Box 1393
Westford, MA  01886