Player Profile: Suzy Willison-Kawalec

Suzy Willison-Kawalec

Suzy Willison-Kawalec, Principal Harp

How did you become involved with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO)?

I became involved with the RPO about eight years ago when I was asked to play second harp to the former RPO principal harpist, Thelma Owen, and became a full-time member of the Orchestra in 2005.

What is the best thing about being a member of the RPO?

There are so many great things about being a member of the RPO, but the friendships and camaraderie amongst colleagues definitely feels very special in the orchestra. Everyone always wants to play to the best of their ability and produce the best concert possible.   

What inspired you to become a musician as a child?

My parents are both professional musicians and I was surrounded by music from a very early age. I was very fortunate that my parents let me have harp lessons and I was constantly inspired by them and all the tuition I had. Playing in the National Youth Orchestra from a young age then confirmed my desire to be a harpist.

Who have you enjoyed working with the most whilst in the RPO?

The concerts we do with our principal conductor Charles Dutoit are without doubt the highlights of the year for me. He inspires us all and creates the most incredible sound from the Orchestra. Playing Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major with Martha Argerich under Maestro Dutoit at the BBC Proms was unforgettable.

 Where is your favourite place to perform?

Cadogan Hall is a wonderful venue to perform in London, especially with smaller-sized repertoire. The acoustics in Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw are unique. And I was amazed by both the warmth we received from the audiences and the high standard of concert halls when touring throughout Japan.

What has been the most valuable piece of advice you have been given in relation to music, and who was it from?

My professor at the Royal Academy of Music, Skaila Kanga, always encouraged me to be as versatile a harpist as possible in order to keep up with the changing musical scene in London. 

Do you have a defining favourite moment of your musical career? What is it?

One of the defining moments that helped me on my career path was playing with the European Union Youth Orchestra. The experiences and concerts I had with them heightened my desire to play professionally with an orchestra and I couldn’t think of a more satisfying way to live my life. 

If you could learn to play another/different instrument, which would it be and why?

If I could learn to play a different instrument in the orchestra it would be the flute. I am fortunate to have played a lot of chamber music for flute and harp and I love the instrument and the beautiful melodies that are written for it, especially in orchestral music.

What was the first recording you ever bought?

One of the first recordings I bought was that of Nicanor Zabaleta playing the Mozart Flute and Harp Concerto.

What do you listen to in your spare time?

I listen to a lot of jazz in my spare time. My sister is a jazz singer who inspires me greatly and I have been fortunate to hear some incredible musicians through her career.


About Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Acknowledged as one of the UK’s most prestigious orchestras, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) enjoys an international reputation for bringing audiences worldwide first-class performances and the highest possible standards of music-making across a diverse range of musical repertoire. This was the vision of the Orchestra’s flamboyant founder Sir Thomas Beecham, whose legacy is maintained today as the Orchestra thrives under the exceptional direction of its new Artistic Director and Principal Conductor, Maestro Charles Dutoit.
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One Response to Player Profile: Suzy Willison-Kawalec

  1. Adrian Trew says:

    I am really enjoying reading the profiles of members of the orchestra, however it would be nice to see pics of them as well. Enjoyed a magnificent performance of the Messiah last Dec at the Royal Albert Hall

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