Celebrating Ann Hobson Pilot

Ann Hobson Pilot

Ann Hobson Pilot is an internationally renowned classical harpist, now retired from the Boston Symphony and Boston Pops Orchestras. As an African American woman in the classical music world, she broke barriers of both race and gender, and she is devoted to expanding access to musical training for underserved students and to raising awareness about issues of diversity and inclusion of underrepresented musicians in orchestras.

She was born in Philadelphia and is a graduate of the Philadelphia High School for Girls and of the Cleveland Institute of Music where she was a student of Alice Chalifoux. In 1966, she was hired by the National Symphony (Washington, D.C.) as Principal Harpist, making her the first Black Principal (for any instrument) in an American orchestra. She joined the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1969 and was named Principal Harp in 1980. 

An international soloist, Ms. Pilot has performed with orchestras in Europe, New Zealand, South Africa, and Argentina as well as with many American orchestras. Committed to harp education, she recently retired from the faculties of the New England Conservatory of Music and Boston University and stepped down as Director of Boston University-Tanglewood Institute’s Young Artists Harp Program. Among her many honors, she has received the Gold Baton from the League of American Orchestras and four honorary doctorates including one from the Cleveland Institute of Music, one from Tufts University, and one from the New England Conservatory.  In a PBS documentary (A Harpist’s Legacy:  Ann Hobson Pilot and the Sound of Change), the full impact of Ms. Pilot’s legacy is affirmed by her students and celebrated by James Levine, Yo-Yo Ma, and John Williams. Paying homage to her artistry, Maestro Williams composed a harp concerto for her when she retired from the Boston Symphony Orchestra (“On Willows and Birches”), saying that “it was a privilege to be asked” and describing her as “a magician in the harp world.”

Learn more about Ann Hobson Pilot's amazing career in the Boston Symphony Orchestra's 80th Birthday Retrospective.