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TikTok sensation reaches the charts with debut album

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It's hard to imagine bands like Metallica or AC/DC being covered by a harpist, but that's what one former Moncton, N.B., musician has done, and she's found great success.

Kristan Toczko loves to entertain — whether it’s in front of a live audience or to her millions of followers online.

Now, she’s on the charts.

The harpist uses her classical training to cover some classic rock favourites.

Her debut album "Rock Echoes" was released on Feb. 16.

It reached number 8 on Billboard’s Classical Crossover chart this week.

“Honestly, I really had no idea that was even something that little old me could achieve,” said Toczko from her home in St. John’s, N.L.

“It wasn’t even on my radar to try to strive for something like that, so I was quite speechless. I feel so honoured to have my music streamed so many times that it made the charts.”

The classically trained harpist started playing when she was nine.

After graduating from Harrison Trimble High School in 2006, she studied at McGill University and then went to Yale for her master’s degree.

Norval McConnell, her former high school principal, recalled a time when Toczko performed at an assembly.

Kristan Toczko poses for a portrait, harp in-hand. (Megan Cary Photography)

“Imagine an empty stage with a young student hardly anyone really knew in front of over 1,000 students with her harp. We were awestruck,” said McConnell. “A very special moment in time as principal there.”

Toczko became a social media sensation during the pandemic when she was stuck at home in Arizona and had nothing to do but make videos.

“I just had such a longing to perform again. I really missed it,” she said.

She discovered the social media app TikTok and starting covering themes from movies and video games.

Her first song was from the film Finding Nemo.

“I arranged it. I played it. I shared it and it got a little bit of traction. I was like, this is nice, and people were giving really nice compliments. Like, ‘This sounds so beautiful. I love hearing you play the harp,’ and it gave me the kind of sense of what I had after I would perform a live concert and talk with the audience afterwards,” said Toczko.

One of the next videos she posted went viral receiving several hundred thousand views.

“I kind of got hooked after that,” she said.

Requests from online followers started pouring in and she began to cover classic rock and alternative bands, some songs more challenging to cover than others.

Kristan Toczko poses for a portrait, harp in-hand. (Megan Cary Photography)

Toczko has made around 1,800 videos in the past few years and now has 2.5 million followers on TikTok.

It’s not uncommon for some of the artists she’s covered to reach out and pay a compliment.

“Many tend to write comments on the videos. So Metallica themselves have seen my videos. I recently shared a video of Muse’s ‘Uprising,’ and they saw the video themselves and re-shared it on their Instagram story,” said Toczko.

For now, she’ll continue doing her online gigs but plans on doing a little bit of travel work this year.

“There’s going to be a few occasional performances here and in St. John’s that I’ll be doing as well, but I just love what I’m doing online. I feel like I can reach such a large audience doing what I’m doing,” said Toczko.

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