Emily Levin is on a roll. Fresh off her audition win at the Santa Fe Opera in August, she won the principal position with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra just a month later. Though she’s only in her mid-20s, Levin is hardly a new name in the harp world, having competed and won awards at two of the world’s most prestigious international harp competitions—the International Harp Contest in Israel where she was a finalist in 2009, and the USA International Harp Competition where she won the bronze medal in 2013.
I caught up with her back in her sun-filled apartment in New York City, where she gave me a behind-the-scenes look at her audition prep, talked about how she deals with nerves (she swears by chamomile oil!), and shared some interesting things that may surprise you. This harpist is one smart cookie—in addition to winning harp auditions left and right, she has aspirations of being a music history professor and is close to fulfilling her lifelong dream of competing on Jeopardy.
Harp Column: Congratulations on your back-to-back audition success with the Santa Fe Opera and the Dallas Symphony! How does it feel?
Emily Levin: It’s still really surreal. I just started my DMA so I thought I had the next, at least, two years planned. I was going to be here (in New York City), I was going to do coursework, and then this happened. I don’t necessarily handle change that well, [Laughs] so it was a little bit of an adjustment! But I’m so excited.
HC: Let’s go back, way back. Can you tell me a little bit about how you got started on the harp, where you grew up, and who you studied with?