Adriana Horne is Principal Harpist of the National Symphony Orchestra
We’d like to Welcome Adriana Horne to the National Symphony! Adriana won the position of Principal Harp in December 2013 and has been performing with the NSO ever since. Now that Adriana has had some time to settle into life in D.C., she was happy to share more about herself. Be sure to look for her on stage at upcoming NSO performances!
What university or conservatory did you attend?
I studied at the University of Southern California for my undergraduate degree, followed by graduate work at Texas Tech University. I then went on to Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana for my Doctorate.
Was it for music?
What are the biggest challenges of being a professional concert harpist?
It’s always a challenge to keep the harp in tune! The harp strings are made of gut, and they stretch, contract, and break at the slightest change of temperature and humidity. In addition to (trying) to keep it in tune, I think playing the harp as an instrument is uniquely challenging—while the hands are plucking the strings, your feet are also changing seven pedals which control pitch of the strings. If you look closely when a harpist plays, you’ll see that both hands and feet are working at once, and it can get confusing if you’re not careful.
Do you have a pre-concert ritual or routine?
I always try to get to the hall early so I have ample time to tune and check for any broken strings. I have a few warm-up pieces that I like to play, and then I’ll usually play slowly through the repertoire for that night’s concert.
What is your favorite piece (or pieces) to play in the orchestra?
I really enjoy playing Ravel and Debussy, and the way the harp is used to add so much color to their compositions. I also think Benjamin Britten writes in a really unique way for the harp, and I enjoy playing his orchestral, solo and chamber pieces.
What are three songs or pieces you love to listen to?
Mahler 2—especially the final movement
Ravel Piano Concerto in G major—2nd movement
Berlioz Symphonie fantastique
Describe your most memorable concert experience:
It was definitely the Strauss concert we did recently, which included Don Juan and the “Dance of the Seven Veils” from Salome. These are two very challenging parts for the harp and they are often included on a lot of auditions. It felt really gratifying to play it in an orchestra, instead of all alone at an audition.
Have you ever had to play in a challenging venue? Describe the challenges and how you overcame or dealt with them:
I once was hired to play some background music at a star gazing party late at night. As it got later into the evening it became freezing cold and very windy. The wind blowing through the harp strings made an extremely eerie howling that drowned out any music I was trying to play, so I finally gave up and let the wind play the harp instead of my fingers (which were frozen blocks of ice at that point). I learned several valuable lessons from this experience: First, never again agree to play outdoors in the dark, and second, the wind is a better harpist than I am.
Did you grow up in a musical household?
My sister plays the harp as well.
What did you want to be growing up?
I thought about becoming a teacher. I love to teach harp lessons now, so it looks like younger me was on the right track.
When did you know you wanted to be a professional classical musician?
When I started playing in orchestras in college, I started to think seriously about it. I love playing as a group, and it’s really gratifying to hear how all our separate parts come together to make the whole piece.
You just moved to the DC area, correct? From where?
I was living in St. George, Utah. Before that I was in Miami, Florida for three years playing with the New World Symphony.
What were the biggest challenges of your move?
Remembering what it feels like to deal with snow! Living in Florida and Southern Utah, I hadn’t had to worry about temperatures lower than 50 degrees. I really enjoy living in a place with four distinct seasons, but shoveling snow is no fun, and I am an absolutely wretched snow driver.
What do you like best about living in/near DC?
I love that at practically every turn there is some historical marker, museum, or monument waiting to be discovered. I also love all the green spaces, parks, and walkways throughout the city. There’s so much to do and I’m having a great time exploring!
Do you have any pets?
Not yet, but I love dogs and plan to get one soon.
What is your favorite way to spend your free time?
Since moving to DC, I’ve decided that I will visit at least one museum a month. It’s been fun to do this but there are so many things to see, it’s a little overwhelming. I also am attempting to grow some tomatoes this year, and I spend my free time thinking about how I’ve forgotten to water them. I love to watch movies—The E Street Cinema and the movie theater at Courthouse with the leather reclining seats are so much fun to go to!
I can’t pick one, but I love Hitchcock films, anything with Cary Grant, and Battleship.
Catch-22 and The Count of Monte Cristo are two of my all time favorites.
Favorite sports team:
I am not a sports person, but I hear that going to a baseball game here is fun so I plan to check that out!
Name one thing people might be surprised to know about you:
I’m fascinated by small spaces and dream of living in a tiny teardrop trailer. Unfortunately, a harp will not fit in a teardrop trailer. Believe me I’ve measured!