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Hobson pilot, Ann (born 1943), Classical Musician, Music Educator

Barbara Bonous-Smit

in African American National Biography

Published in print January 2006 | ISBN: 9780195301731
Hobson pilot, Ann (born 1943), Classical Musician, Music Educator

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harpist, was born Ann Stevens Hobson in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the younger of two daughters of Grace Stevens Smith and Harrison D. Hobson. Her father was a social worker and her mother an accomplished pianist and a Philadelphia public school teacher. Her older sister, Harriet Hobson, was a child prodigy who began piano studies at age two, performed in piano recitals by age four, and by high school gave up the instrument.When Hobson was five, her family moved to Germany where her father, a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, was stationed in Giessen and Mannheim after World War II. Hobson's musical training began at age six with her mother's lessons on piano and music fundamentals. She attended the U.S. Army school, and her musical talent was further nurtured by German piano teachers and the rich musical and cultural heritage of Germany. The Hobsons spent four years in Germany.Hobson and her family returned to Philadelphia in 1953, and she continued piano studies with her mother. She also was enrolled at the Philadelphia Girls School. Hobson became upset when her mother interrupted her practice to correct her mistakes, and she consequently took a dislike to practicing. Her mother terminated her piano lessons when Hobson was fourteen, citing her own lack of interest in the instrument. This suited Hobson, as by this time she was motivated to find another instrument her mother was unfamiliar with.The public schools in Philadelphia at this time had a fine instrumental music program. But there were already too many students studying the flute, violin, and cello at the Philadelphia Girls School, and only the harp was available. Because she had a strong piano background, Hobson was encouraged by the school's chairman to take up the harp. She did so, and soon found that she excelled at playing it.Hobson gained valuable experience performing as harpist in churches in Philadelphia after only one year of study. She attended the Philadelphia High School for Girls, graduating in 1961. Her first professional job as a harpist was at age seventeen performing at Philadelphia's Latin Casino, where she played five days a week following performances by Peggy Lee and Johnny Mathis. She made considerable money at these gigs and continued gaining experience by playing in the Philadelphia All-City High School Orchestra and later in the all-black Philadelphia Concert Orchestra.In her senior year in 1960, Hobson came into contact with the principal harpist of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Marilyn Costello, who also taught in the Philadelphia public schools and later at the Curtis Institute of Music. Costello became her mentor and harp teacher. Costello was responsible for training many of the harpists of the world's major orchestras, including those of the Berlin Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera, and the National and St. Louis symphony orchestras. Therefore, being recognized by her as a major talent was important.In 1960 Hobson, through the encouragement of Costello, auditioned for Carlos Salzedo, founder and director of the Maine Harp Colony in Camden, Maine, and considered one of the most eminent performers and instructors on the instrument. But he refused to admit black students and, though impressed by Hobson, would not make an exception for her. After graduating from high school, Hobson enrolled at the Philadelphia Musical Academy and continued studies with Costello. After Salzedo's death in 1961, the Maine Harp Colony, renamed the Salzedo Harp Colony, admitted Hobson for the summer of 1962. Her instructor was Alice Chalifoux, the harpist of the-Cleveland Orchestra and director of the Harp Colony. She would have a profound influence on Hobson's development and eventual career. Hobson continued study with Chalifoux when she transferred from the Philadelphia Musical Academy in her junior year on a full scholarship to the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she graduated in 1966 with a BM.During her senior year at the Cleveland Institute, in 1965–1966, Hobson became substitute second harpist for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. In the fall of 1966 she became principal harpist of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C., becoming also its only black member. The original one-year year position was extended to three years. In 1969, with the encouragement of the Boston Pops conductor Arthur Fiedler, she auditioned for the position of principal harpist of the Boston Pops, a position which included duties as assistant principal harpist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. She was selected over thirty other candidates for those positions. She held the position of assistant harpist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra until 1980, when she became its principal harpist.In 1971, along with her flutist and cellist colleagues of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Hobson founded the New England Harp Trio. She was also a member of the contemporary music group Collage, the Boston Symphony Chamber Players, and the Ritz Chamber Players. She made her Tanglewood solo debut on July 1972 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra performing Mozart's Concerto in C for Flute and Harp. After that time, she performed numerous times as soloist at Tanglewood. On many occasions she performed the Concerto for Harp and Orchestra by Alberto Ginastera with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Boston Pops.In August 1980 she married R. Prentice Pilot, a jazz bassist and music teacher in Boston public schools. They had a daughter, Lynn, who studied the flute and viola but became a doctor of naprapathy in Chicago. Pilot was originally from Chicago, where he received his BM in Music Education from Roosevelt University. In 1972 he relocated to Boston for graduate study at the New England Conservatory of Music. He has worked as an administrator and music teacher in both Chicago and Boston and played the string bass with the Boston Pops Orchestra. Ann Hobson Pilot served on the harp faculty of the Philadelphia Musical Academy; the Ambler (1968–69), Marlboro, Newport (1993), and Sarasota (2000, 2003, 2006) music festivals; the New England Conservatory of Music (beginning in 1971); Tanglewood Music Center (beginning in 1989); and Boston University (beginning in 2002), including its Tanglewood Institute (beginning in 2002). She conducted master classes in the United States and in the People's Republic of China and organized harp clinics for young students. She also served on the board of trustees at the Longy School of Music (1993–1996) and on the board of directors at Holy Trinity School, Haiti (1993–1996).Hobson Pilot enjoyed an extensive career as a soloist with major symphony orchestras including the Springfield and Utah symphony orchestras (1998), the Orchestra of Port-au-Prince in Haiti, the London Symphony (1993), the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (1993), the National Symphony Orchestra of South Africa (1997), the Symphony by the Sea in Salem and Byfield, Massachusetts (2007), and orchestras in other countries. She has also performed with Claudia Arrau, Leonard Bernstein, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Charles Dutoit, Arthur Fiedler, James Galway, James Levine, Jessye Norman, Seiji Ozawa, John Williams, and others. She recorded the harp concertos by Beethoven, Norman Dello Joio, Alberto Ginastera, Kevin Kaska, and William Mathias. Her 1991 album for Boston Records, titled Ann Hobson Pilot, Harpist, included sonatas and partitas by Johann Sebastian Bach and works by Claude Debussy, Gabriel Fauré, Paul Hindemith, Albert Hay Malotte, Gabriel Pierné, Maurice Ravel, and Carlos Salzedo. She also released several albums devoted to contemporary music, including Contrasts, with Leone Buyse on flute, which included Joseph Castaldo's Contrasts for solo harp (1956); John Heiss's Four Lyric Pieces for solo flute (1962); Geoffrey Dana Hicks's A Dream for alto flute and harp (1994); Katherine Hoover's Kokopeli for solo flute (1990); David Noon's Sonata da Camera for flute and harp, Opus 89 (1986); Vincent Persichetti's Serenade no. 10 for flute and harp (1957); and Charles Rochester Young's Song of the Lark for flute and harp (1989).She and her husband initiated a concert series beginning with the 1993/1994 concert season in St. Maarten, where they had a home, and St. Croix, with emphasis on African American composers and musicians, chamber music, and jazz. They both were prominent members of several outreach programs in the United States dedicated to exposing black and other minority students to classical music. Free instrumental instruction forms part of the programs, which include the Boston Symphony Orchestra's Cultural Diversity Committee (beginning in 1991); the Boston Music Education Collaborative; and Boston's String Training and Educational Program (STEP) (beginning in spring 1993).In 1997 Hobson Pilot traveled to Johannesburg, South Africa, in search of the roots of the harp and performed William Grant Still's Ennanga with the National Symphony of Johannesburg. Her trip was documented in the 1998 video Ann Hobson Pilot: A Musical Journey, which premiered in 1998 on PBS.Hobson Pilot received several awards and honors, including those from the Professional Arts Society of Philadelphia (1987), an honorary doctorate of fine arts from Bridgewater State College (1988), Sigma Alpha Iota's Distinguished Woman of the Year Award (1991), the Philadelphia College of Performing Arts, School of Music Alumni Achievement Award (1992), and the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award, Cleveland Institute of Music (1993). In 2000 she was honored by the Boston Pops for her contributions to music education.

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