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A Birthday Salute to Ann Hobson Pilot

Born in 1943 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Ann Hobson Pilot first took up harp while attending the Philadelphia Girls School. She attended the Philadelphia Musical Academy and later the Cleveland Institute of Music where she studied under Alice Chalifoux. Persevering through racism, she rose to the top of her field, and became the Boston Symphony Orchestra's first Black principal player (and the first Black female principal player at any major orchestra). With a passion for education and creating a more inclusive field, she often contributed royalties from her recordings to support organizations such Project STEP or the UNCF. This special focus exhibit celebrates the occasion of Ann Hobson Pilot's 80th birthday last November.

Color snapshot of Ann Hobson Pilot playing the harp

Snapshot of Ann Hobson Pilot playing the harp

(Photographer unknown)

Beginning with the BSO in 1969

When Ann Hobson Pilot joined the orchestra in the fall of 1969, she was one of five women in the orchestra and the only Black player (bass player Ortiz Walton had left the orchestra in 1962).

Trailblazer: First Black Female Player at the BSO

Boston Globe article with an image of Ann Hobson Pilot and her harp, with view of peg board
A 1977 Boston Sunday Globe article highlighting the stories of Black musicians at major orchestras, including Ann Hobson Pilot

A Versatile Performer Across All Ensembles

Over the course of her 40-year career with the BSO, Ann Hobson Pilot performed with all of the ensembles encompassed by the BSO: the Pops, the Boston Symphony Chamber Players, and the BSO. She even inspired John Williams to compose a concerto for harp and orchestra, which she premiered in 2009.

Extracurriculars Beyond the BSO

In addition to her position at the BSO, Ann Hobson Pilot founded the New England Harp Trio, received a doctorate in music, traveled to study the origins of the harp in Africa, performed with ensembles such as the Orchestra 2001, and released several recordings, including one with solo harp works.

Listen: Excerpt from Ann Hobson Pilot's performance of The Lord's Prayer by Malotte (Boston Records, 1991)

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