11th USA International Harp Competition Jury
Skaila Kanga, United Kingdom
Skaila Kanga studied piano and singing from an early age at the Royal Academy of Music and at age 17, began harp studies with Tina Bonifacio and Marisa Robles. She quickly became established with all the major London orchestras, and is renowned for her extensive career in both classical and pop records, television, and her list of over 1000 film soundtrack credits to date, including four Harry Potter films, Shrek, and all the James Bond films since the John Barry days. Her recording accolades include many albums with artists such as Elton John, Paul McCartney, Sting, Robbie Williams, James Galway, Joni Mitchell, Michel Legrand, Henry Mancini, John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Pat Metheny, Frank Sinatra, Joan Sutherland, Pavarotti, Katherine Jenkins, Tommy Reilly and more.
Ms. Kanga has been Principal Harpist of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields since 1971 and for 25 years, she was solo harpist with the Nash Ensemble. Her solo recordings are available on the Chandos, Hyperion, Naxos and ASV labels.
Ms. Kanga was Head of Harp at the Royal Academy of Music from 1999-2010, and was appointed Professor Emerita of Harp in 2010. She is regularly invited to sit on competition juries and has given lecture-recitals and masterclasses throughout Russia, Europe, Hong Kong and America. In 2006, she co-founded the summer International Harp Academy ‘HarpMasters’ in Switzerland with Milda Agazarian.
Skaila Kanga is also a prolific composer and arranger. To date she has published 21 books of harp music, many of which are on the ABRSM, Guildhall and Trinity exam syllabi. She has commissioned over 23 new works for her students and for the Academy Harp Ensemble which she founded in 1993. Information on her publications can be found at www.marukamusic.com
Milda Agazarian, Russia
One of the foremost teachers, performers, and public figures in the world of music in Russia, Milda Agazarian is Professor of Harp at the Russian Gnessin’s Music Academy and the Gnessin Specialized Music School in Moscow. A visiting professor since 2009, Ms. Agazarian was appointed on Honorary Associate of the Royal Academy of Music in London in 2018.
Ms. Agazarian is a founding member and President of the Association of Russian Harp Teachers International and the Founder and Artistic Director of the Moscow International Harp Festival, Ksenia Erdely International Harp Competition, and the Open Youth Mark Rubin Harp Competition. She has served on the World Harp Congress Board of Directors since 2011.
Ms. Agazarian has worked with a number of orchestras, including the USSR State Symphony Orchestra under E. Svetlanov and the Tchaikovsky Symphonic Orchestra under the conductor V. Fedoseev. She has served on the juries of numerous national and international harp competitions and presented masterclasses around the world. Her editions of music for harp solo are highly prized.
In 2013, she was awarded the Order ‘For Services to the Fatherland’. In 2014, she received the Harp Personality award at the International Harp Academy Harpmasters in Switzerland where she has been Professor-in-Residence since 2006.
Born in Erevan, Armenia, Milda Agazarian graduated from the Moscow Gnessin Specialized Music School with a gold medal and an award from the Tchaikovsky Moscow State Conservatory. A student and successor of legendary Russian harpists and pedagogues Mark Rubin, Ksenia Erdely and Vera Dulova, she preserves, continues, and develops traditions of the famous Russian harp school.
Sylvain Blassel, France
French harpist Sylvain Blassel graduated in 1998 from the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Lyon where he studied with Fabrice Pierre. Both a harpist and conductor, he immediately started as assistant conductor with the Ensemble InterContemporain where his meetings with conductors such as Pierre Boulez, György Kurtag, György Ligeti, Brian Ferneyhough, or Helmut Lachenmann were decisive for him.
Fond of orchestra, he has played under the baton of conductors such as Claudio Abbado, Sir Simon Rattle, Gustavo Dudamel, Alan Gilbert, Vladimir Jurowski, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Emmanuel Krivine, Marek Janowski, Kent Nagano, Tugan Sokiev, etc. Fascinated by ancient harps, he often plays with period instrument orchestras.
Willing to expand his repertoire, Sylvain Blassel has become a specialist in transcribing and adapting a heritage spanning from Guillaume de Machaut until today’s music. Starting from the premise that the piano repertoire often requires a much higher dexterity than the harp, he has been working on developing a technique that enables him first to address pieces amongst the most dreaded by pianists (Liszt’s Campanella, Hungarian Rhapsodies…) but above all, the major masterpieces of the repertoire including J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations and Beethoven’s last sonatas. Passionate about organology and period instruments, he carefully selects his performance harp according to the repertoire.
Sylvain Blassel teaches the harp at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Lyon, along with Fabrice Pierre and Park Stickney. He also teaches conducting at the Conservatoire de Rennes, Brittany, after teaching analysis there for fifteen years. He regularly gives master classes at music schools all over the world including London, New York, Tokyo, Toronto, Hong Kong, Hamburg, Berlin, Praha, Chicago, Seoul, Beijing, and Shanghai, amongst others.
Jana Boušková, Czech Republic
Jana Boušková is praised for her breathtaking technique, brilliant precision, and power of expression. In high demand worldwide as a harpist, her performance accolades include artistic work with Maxim Vengerov, Jurij Bashmet, Patrick Gallois, Lars Vogt, Christian Tetzlaff, Sharon Kam, Mstislav Rostropovič, Emmanuel Pahud, Mathieu Defour, Marie-Pierre Langlamet, the Czech, Budapest, Stuttgart, and Israel Philharmonics, Luzern Symphony, Prague Philharmonia, Chicago and Amsterdam Sinfoniettas, MDR Symphonieorchester Leipzig, Tokyo Chamber Orchestra, and Köln Chamber Philharmonic. Jana Boušková regularly performs at important Czech and world concert venues and festivals, including solo recitals in Alice Tully Hall, Thėâtre Châtelet, Wiener Musikverein, IMF Prague, and the Berliner Festtage. Chamber music engagements include Spannungen Festspiele, Parry Sound, Festival des Laureats Juventus Cambrai, Elba Isola Musical, and the Théâtre de la Ville.
Ms. Boušková graduated from the Prague Conservatory and Ostrava University where she studied with Professor Libuše Váchalová. She continued her studies at Indiana University with Professor Susann McDonald via a Fulbright Grant. She is the Gold Medalist of the 1992 2nd USA International Harp Competition and the 2nd Prize winner of the 11th Israel International Harp Competition that same year. Other successes include victories in Concours International de Musique de Chambre, the Torneo Internazionale di Musica, laureate of the Juventus Festival, and 1996 Czech Republic’s Prize Talent of the Year.
Jana Boušková is a devoted pedagogue. She teaches at the Royal Academy in Brussels, the Prague Academy of Performing Arts, and the Royal College of Music London. Since 2005, Ms. Boušková has been the solo harpist of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. She has recorded more than twenty CDs for Czech and international labels, radios and television companies. Together with her mother, Professor Libuše Váchalováare, Ms. Boušková has discovered and authored adaptations of the Czech repertoire including Vltava (The Moldau) by Bedřich Smetana, and compositions of Antonín Dvořák and Josef Suk, which have considerably enriched the harp repertoire worldwide.
Mario Falcao, Portugal
Mario Falcao is Professor Emeritus at the State University of New York at Fredonia, and a Visiting Professor at the Escola Superior de Música de Lisboa, Portugal. A native of Lisbon, Mr. Falcao attended the Lisbon Conservatory where he was awarded a diploma in Harp Performance. He attended the Eastman School of Music on a Fulbright scholarship, where he completed both a Master of Music Degree and Performer’s Certificate studying harp with Eileen Malone. Additionally, he studied with Phia Berghout in the Netherlands.
At the 5th International Harp Contest in Israel in 1973, Mr. Falcao received a special prize for the outstanding performance of a contemporary work. Through his extensive international career as a chamber musician, orchestral soloist, and recitalist, he has generated opportunities for composers and harpists alike to express themselves through the creation and realization of new music.
Mr. Falcao was a member of the Creative Associates of SUNY Buffalo where he worked with John Cage, Lukas Foss and Morton Feldman, among others. He has collaborated in contemporary music and harp festivals in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and North and South America.
Past Chairman of the Board of Directors of the American Harp Society, Mr. Falcao has served numerous terms on their board and recently ended a 6-year term as the New York Regional Director. In 2018, he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Harp Society. Mr. Falcao is a founding member of the World Harp Congress (1981) and serves on the Board of Directors. He is committed to fostering the creation and performance of contemporary music for the harp and supporting the work of worldwide harp organizations in creating a global community of friendships through the harp.
Anneleen Lenaerts, Belgium
Belgian harpist Anneleen Lenaerts is one of the leading soloists of her instrument. In December 2010 she was appointed Principal Harpist of the Vienna Philharmonic. From an early age, Ms. Lenaerts won an impressive amount of prizes at international harp competitions; 23 prizes between 1997 and 2009, of which the Grand Prix International Lily Laskine and the ARD International Music Competition in Munich are particularly outstanding. At the latter, she was both a prizewinner and the winner of the Audience Prize.
As a soloist, Ms. Lenaerts has performed with the Symphony Orchestra of Bavarian Radio, the Mozarteum Orchestra, the Philadelphia Chamber Orchestra, the Polish National Radio Orchestra, the Brussels Philharmonic, and the National Orchestra of Belgium amongst others. She has made her solo debut at venues including the Wigmore Hall in London, Carnegie Hall New York, Berliner Philharmonie, Salle Gaveau in Paris, Grosses Festspielhaus in Salzburg, Bozar in Brussels and in festivals such as Rheingau Festival, Dresden Musikfestspiele, Lockenhaus Festival, Moritzburg Festival and Aspen Music Festival. Her solo appearances have been recorded by various stations including BBC 3, Radio France Musique, and Deutschlandfunk.
After the success of recording 3 Harp Concertos (by Glière, Rodrigo, and Jongen) with the Brussels Philharmonic for Warner Classics and a CD with works by Schumann & Schubert with clarinetist Dionysis Grammenos, Ms. Lenaerts signed an exclusive recording artist contract with Warner Classics in 2016. In 2019, she released a new recording featuring works by Nino Rota. Her previous solo album on Aliud Records comprises twelve transcriptions of some of the most popular piano pieces by Chopin and Liszt.
In addition to harp, Anneleen Lenaerts studied harmony, counterpoint and fugue at the Brussels Conservatory. She teaches at the University of Maastricht (NL) and is a Faculty Member of the Aspen Music Festival (USA).
Dan Yu, China
Since winning the Gold Medal of the 5th USA International Harp Competition in 2001, Dan Yu has performed solo recitals and chamber music concerts throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia, and appeared to great acclaim at Alice Tully Hall, New York, and Wigmore Hall, London.
As a harp teacher, Ms. Yu has given masterclasses in the US, at the major conservatories of China, and at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Since moving to Hong Kong in 2008, her students have won prizes at international and national competitions in France, Japan, USA, Russia, Serbia, Korea, China and Hong Kong. She also served on the jury of the USA International Harp Competition in 2013.
Dan Yu’s performances have been broadcast on television and radio stations in the USA, China, and Hong Kong. She has two classical solo CDs and one DVD released, “The Nightingale", "Spring on the Moonlit River", and “Dan Yu-Live Recital”.
Dan Yu holds Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, and an Artist Diploma from Indiana University. Currently she is the Music Director at Hong Kong Harp Chamber, and the harp instructor at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. Dan Yu was the Co-Chair of the Host Committee for the 2017 World Harp Congress in Hong Kong.