Harpist accompanies orchestra to Carnegie Hall

March 10, 2011 — by Parul Singh

Ask a typical student whether they have taken music lessons, and most will say they have studied the piano or flute or violin at some point. But only two students at Saratoga have studied the harp.

Junior Vivian Hsu is one of these two students who has dedicated herself to the study of this instrument and has achieved much success as a result of her hard work.

Hsu recently accompanied the Saratoga Strings and the Saratoga Wind Ensemble on their trip to Carnegie Hall and featured in one song for each group.

Junior Hansen Qian feels that Hsu is a great addition to the orchestra since they have never had a harpist before.

“Vivian is a really amazing musician, and the sections that she plays of our songs always sound really good,” Qian said.

Hsu started learning the harp at age 8 under the discipline of teacher Linda Wood Rollo.

“She’s a really great teacher, and many of her students have become very successful and famous,” Hsu said.

Her brother, freshman Wesley Hsu, is the only other harpist at the school. He started playing harp after he saw his older sister play.

“I think it’s really great that we both play harp because it allows us to help and support each other,” Hsu said.

Both Hsu and her brother have played in the San Francisco Youth Symphony since 2008.

“Although San Francisco is pretty far, this youth symphony is one of the most prestigious [symphonies] in the state, so I think [the long commute] is worth it,” said Hsu.

However, achieving this level of skill did not come easily, as years of practice and dedication to music are necessary to perfect the harp. Although Hsu usually has too much homework to practice during
the week, she practices two hours a day on the weekends.

“The hardest part about playing the harp is learning how to use the pedals. Since there are seven different pedals you have to know when to press each one with your foot,” Hsu said.

Not only does Hsu play the harp, but she also played the piano as a young child and the flute in San Jose Youth Symphony’s Concert Orchestra during middle school.

Hsu encourages other musicians not to feel intimidated by the harp and believes that anyone who wants to try to play the harp should go for it.

“The harp is really not that hard once you get the hang of it. Plus anything you play on it sounds good, even if you make a mistake,” Hsu said.