Harpist Paula Page was born in Texas, and returned to the Lone Star State to play principal harp with the Houston Symphony for the last 30 years. Newly retired after three decades with the orchestra, Page talks with fellow orchestral harpist Nancy Lendrim of the Toledo Symphony about her years with the orchestra, her years studying with Alice Chalifoux, and what lies ahead in the next chapter of her life.
—by Nancy Lendrim
Harp Column: Congratulations on your recent retirement from the Houston Symphony. How does it feel to have the season begin this weekend without you?
Paula Page: I was a little concerned about that. You know the beginning of the season has always felt like the first day of school, and it’s always been something I looked forward to and felt excited about because it’s a new season and a new start. So I wasn’t quite sure how I’d feel about it. But as it turned out, I feel fine. I thought a long time about retiring before I actually sent my letter. Having done that, I have not looked back ever and thought I shouldn’t have or maybe I should have waited. I knew the time felt right to me for a lot of different reasons. It’s been fine. I felt okay about it.
HC: I’m curious if the Houston Symphony has any traditions for retiring musicians.
PP: We haven’t really had formal traditions for retirees, but they did several nice things, one of which was that they had made a special quilt for me because they know I’m into quilting, and it was very touching that they took that into consideration. The quilt was made for me to hang on my wall, and they quilted into the panels things that mean a lot to me. Obviously there was a panel of an orchestra and a panel that included the logo of Rice University, and a panel of my grandchildren and my dog, and one of wildflowers, and one of sewing. It was really touching that they did that for me.
HC: Let’s go back 30 years and talk about your thinking when you won the Houston audition. What was that audition like for you, and how do you think that audition told you what it would be like, if it did, to be a member of the Houston Symphony?