Meet TSO principal Harp Ben Albertson

by Tucson Symphony
Meet TSO principal Harp Ben Albertson

At what age did you start playing music and what was your first instrument?

I took up the piano when I was 5. I took up the harp when I was 7, and I also played the flute and saxophone for a few years between 9 and 13. The harp was the only instrument that I really took seriously.

When did you know that you wanted to pursue music professionally?

When I was 13, I played Claude Debussy’s ‘Clair de Lune’ at my middle school’s graduation ceremony. It was a particularly meaningful performance for me. Immediately after the ceremony, I was asked to play a wedding. That was the moment I knew I wanted to be a professional harpist.

What was the audition process like for you?

I have yet to meet a musician that loves orchestral auditions, as it is an intense process. However, I was thrilled to win the first audition that I ever took.

What advice would you give to young musicians who are starting the audition process?

Find teachers that have won auditions, and study with them. Listen to recordings. For youth symphony auditions, you are never too young to audition. College auditions and solo competitions, the key is knowing that you are ready, and telling yourself that. For professional auditions, don’t listen to the other players at the audition and focus on yourself. In all performances and auditions, know that everyone there wants you to succeed, and no one wants you to fail. At the end of the day, there will always be another one even if you don’t win the audition.

What concert are you most looking forward to this season and why?

I was really looking forward to my performance of Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro in the Up Close chamber music series. However, since that has passed as of the time of this interview (and I did really enjoy it), I would say the piece I am most looking forward to is Alberto Ginastera’s Variaciones Concertantes. The entire piece begins with a cello and harp duo that lasts for several minutes, and there are several minutes of bass and harp duo as well. I love chamber music, and the piece really features beautiful and profound sonorities in chamber music. It is hollow and haunting, yet heart wrenching music (also having lively movements as well).

What do you love about the harp in general and your instrument in particular?

The harp is one of very few instruments where both hands are free, and it has one of the most direct interfaces with sound. There is no bow, mallet, or keyboard between you and the sound. This gives the instrument a lot of color options. Further, I like how the harp is a very visual instrument. What you see and what you hear are tightly linked. My harp is a historical instrument, as it was previously owned by Carlos Salzedo, one of the greatest harpists of all time. I enjoy its sound.