As the youngest principal harpist in an American orchestra today, Emily Levin keeps quite busy. In addition to her role with the DSO, she has a thriving solo and chamber music career that has taken her from Carnegie Hall to the Los Angeles Philharmonic. When she isn’t performing on stage at the Meyerson Symphony Center or traveling across the country, you can find Emily taking advantage of Dallas’s many dog-friendly activities with her two dogs, Charlie and JoJo. She is also a featured soloist this month – Emily will perform Debussy’s Sacred and Profane Dances January 31 through February 2. 



Hometown: Denver, Colorado

Education:  Indiana University (Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Arts in History); The Juilliard School (Master of Music)

With the DSO since: 2016

Previous position: None – the DSO is Emily’s first orchestral position!

How and when did you first choose the harp as your instrument?
I was four years old when I first heard about the harp. My dad would tell me bedtime stories each night, and one particular night he told me the Bible story of David playing the harp for Saul. My mom had me signed up for cello lessons, but I was (and still am) very stubborn. So I started taking harp lessons when I was five. 

When did you decide that you wanted to pursue a career in music?
I've always wanted to be a musician. Over the years I would attach other career goals to that plan, but it was always "I want to be a ____ and a harpist." (One of the reasons I double majored in undergrad was because I had non-musical interests that I wanted to explore.) My goal of being a musician never changed though, and here I am today!

What has been your most memorable experience with the DSO so far?
It's hard to choose! Performing Mozart’s Flute and Harp Concerto with David Buck and Maestro van Zweden last season was one of my personal highlights. I've also loved the times we’ve had six harps on stage – for Mahler's Das klagende Lied and Wagner’s Die Walküre. It's so rare to actually have a full harp "section" in an orchestra! 

You’re the featured soloist in Debussy’s Sacred and Profane Dances this month. How do you prepare for a big performance like that?

The Debussy is one of our concerto staples, and it's very intricate and nuanced, which is what makes it challenging. So I spend a lot of time doing "detail" work, finely shaping each musical line and really focusing on the tone colors in my fingers. It's a stunningly transparent piece, so it needs to be handled with care. 

What do you enjoy most about being an orchestral musician? And what are some of the biggest challenges?

I love coming to work each day and making music with my friends. We have an incredible group dynamic in the DSO, which is quite special. As a harpist, I'm a solo voice in the orchestra, so the biggest challenge is making sure everything is perfect – my notes, my timing and my sense of chamber music. There's no one else playing my instrument or my part, so it's a lot of responsibility! 

What are your other hobbies and interests outside of music?

I do the New York Times crossword every day, and I am a coffee snob (the two go together quite nicely.) I travel a lot for other solo and chamber concerts, which gives me good excuses to see more of the world! I also have two adorable and high-energy dogs named Charlie and JoJo, so we spend a lot of time outside exploring everything dog-friendly Dallas has to offer.

What surprised you most about Dallas when you first moved here?

I had never spent time in Texas before moving here, so finding a city that loves music, has a great food scene, and has such friendly people was amazing. It's a great city to live in. Except in the summer – my first 100+ degree day was horrifying!

What advice do you have for aspiring harpists?

Say “yes” to as many musical opportunities as possible. You will gain invaluable experience. And find harp friends! We have an incredible harp community, so take advantage of it. 


Cats or dogs?
Tex-mex or BBQ? Tex-mex
Beer or wine? Both
Cake or pie? Pie
Favorite composer? Ravel or Mahler
Favorite non-classical group/artist? Simon and Garfunkel
Favorite author?  Kurt Vonnegut
Favorite place in Dallas for: 
Coffee: Houndstooth.
Beer: Ginger Man
Cocktails: Lounge Here
Food: Gemma


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