A critic once said Bridget Kibbey was the "Jimi Hendrix of harp."

Or maybe she's the Jay-Z, taking a rather imposing instrument that conjures images of angels plucking out heavenly melodies to some unimaginable arenas.

Like rap.

"I recorded with Kanye West ... for Live Aid," said Kibbey, who has been playing the harp since she heard it in church as a child growing up in Ohio. "It was actually 'Jesus Walks With Me' so there you go. My harp has come full circle."

Her current harp journey? A marriage of classical and folk music. The 33-year-old has a recording due out later this year.

"It's really taking the harp to a different place," said Kibbey, who brings her "Music Box" concert to UApresents tonight for her first Tucson appearance.

We caught up with her by phone in Houston last week.

Do you travel with your own harp?

"I do not. One of the greatest challenges for the harp is that we actually have to leave our babies at home. It's dangerous to travel with a harp. ... One bad maneuver would kill the instrument, which is priceless.

"I am very thankful that when I travel I have a large network of friends and colleagues who are generous in loaning instruments. And specifically in Tucson, I'm thankful for Carrol McLaughlin and her studio for loaning me one of (the University of Arizona) instruments."

When we think of harp in Tucson, we think of McLaughlin and her HarpFusion at the UA.

"One of my favorite memories as a child was when Carrol McLaughlin came to my hometown and put together a harp ensemble of about 40 harpists. She is an incredible and charismatic performer. I was mesmerized. It's really neat what she's done for the harp."

Is it hard performing on a new harp every time?

"It is a challenge. I ask a lot of questions in advance to make sure I'm comfortable on the instrument. ... And I always show up in a new city a day in advance to get comfortable on that instrument. It's a great challenge. You just fool yourself into believing that it's your own and it's purely a mind-set."

What are you performing here?

"It's a foray into one of my largest dreams, which is to blend folk music and classical. I have commissioned seven wonderful, international composers. Each has immigrated to New York City from another country, and most of them are writing for the harp for the first time. But what makes it really spectacular is that each of them has done something completely different with the instruments. ... Taking you around the world with musical snapshots from Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, Ireland, Canada - traditional native Canadian - China and the Philippines. I actually have arranged my own Celtic reels and some bluegrass Appalachian music that you will be hearing, as well."

If you go

• What: Harpist Bridget Kibbey "Music Box."

• When: 7:30 tonight.

• Where: Crowder Hall, East Speedway and North Park Avenue, on the University of Arizona campus.

• Tickets: $30 to $40 through uapresents.org or 621-3341.