Why the USA International Harp Competition?


Well, the first round of the 2016 USA International Harp Competition in Bloomington, Indiana is coming to a close.  Sixteen competitors played Thursday, sixteen more played yesterday, and the last eight will compete this morning.  Those I spoke with seemed pleased with their performance.

During the days of the competition when results are not being posted, I thought I would take a more “behind the scenes” approach to blogging.  My job as Competition Coordinator allows me to work closely with the competitors and get to know them more personally, and I want to share this side with you.  I had each contestant fill out a questionnaire so that I can feature a few quotes from them during the “off days” of the competition.

My first question to the competitors is “Why the USA International Harp Competition?” For those who do not know, the USAIHC is the largest harp competition in the world today.  Sixty-eight harpists initially applied to the competition this year- the largest amount thus far for any harp competition!  So… What’s the big draw? What makes this competition stand above the rest?  In the last Harp Column issue, I had the honor of interviewing my current teacher and the founder of the USAIHC Competition, Susann McDonald.  During the interview, I asked her what she felt was the big draw to the USA harp competition.  She thought the wide variety of repertoire was a major attraction because it is repertoire not only from different schools of harp playing, but also repertoire which is excellent for concertizing.  Another great attraction seems to be the first place prizes, which this year includes a $55,000 valued harp of the winners choice, a debut recital at Lyon & Healy Harps, a CD recording, a recital in Hong Kong, a five city concert tour in China, and $5,000 in prize money.  Still not convinced?? Well, let me share with you what a few of the competitors had to say about why they decided to compete in the USAIHC:


“I enjoy the challenge of learning large amounts of repertoire and I had wanted to learn a lot of the pieces on the USAIHC 2016 set repertoire for some time.  Preparing for such a renowned competition also pushes you in so many ways, whatever it be in terms of memory, stamina, discipline or mental strength.”- Elizabeth Bass, United Kingdom

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Elizabeth Bass

“I decided to try for this competition since I was ten years old.  I always saw the older harpists of my class preparing for it and I decided that one day I would try.  I think that we all prepare for this competition in order to know where we could arrive, what we are able to do, and to surpass what we think are our capacities and abilities.” – Arianna Rossi, Italy

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Arianna Rossi

“I decided to participate in the 2016 USAIHC because it is the most difficult and interesting competition.  Also, I have never participated in any competition with four stages! For me, it’s a good way to check my professional abilities, to show myself as a harpist, and to make new friendships and connections.”- Maria Mikhaylovskaya, Russia

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Maria Mikhaylovskaya

“It was always my dream to compete in the USAIHC.  Now that I’m grown up, I realise that it’s a great way to push my limits and improve myself.  Also, I still don’t have a good instrument of my own, so winning a harp would be a dream come true.”- Aisté Baliunyté, Lithuania

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Aisté Baliunyté

“I think preparing for a competition such as this is a wonderful way to raise the bar of my own playing.  I’m in a place in my development where a challenge like this will definitely be beneficial no matter the outcome, and feel really fortunate to have the opportunity.” – Shelly Du, China

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Shelly Du


The remaining contestants are currently competing until 1:30 PM in Recital Hall.  Those who advance to the second stage will be announced in the afternoon and Harp Column will be sure to post the update as soon as possible! Also, Marta Marinelli, Silver Medalist of the 2013 USAIHC will be giving a Laureate Recital tonight at 7 PM in Auer Hall.  So if you are in the area, make sure to attend this concert- I have been hearing her practice over the past few days and it is definitely going to be a concert you do not want to miss!



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