Profile: Jane Soh

Published on 19 July 2016

Boston-based Singaporean harpist Jane Soh shares why the harp is her instrument of choice.

BY PAMELA HO

“I knew from age 10 that the harp was what I wanted to play, but it’s very expensive. My current harp costs over US$30,000. It’s no surprise — with the way children gain and lose interest in different activities — that my parents weren’t going to buy me a harp just because I asked for one,” says Jane Soh. This Boston-based Singaporean harpist holds a Master of Music degree in Harp Performance from The Boston Conservatory, and is currently pursuing her Graduate Performance Diploma, a higher, purely performance graduate degree.

She reveals that the first time she laid hands on a harp was when she joined Anglo-Chinese Junior College’s harp ensemble. While she’s trained in the piano, voice and liuqin (Chinese mandolin), it’s the harp she focuses on almost exclusively now.

“It draws me on so many different levels: the nature of its sound — or as we call it, timbre — its physical shape, the way it’s played, and what it’s capable of. Also, I’ve always been a voracious reader. Growing up, I read a lot from the sci-fi and fantasy genre, and harps just fit right into the ‘worlds’ I saw.”

Her love for reading may partly explain why she pursued English literature and Japanese studies at the National University of Singapore. But upon graduation, and through the recommendation of her harp teacher, Huang Yu-Hsin, she left for Boston in 2013 to study under the tutelage of renowned classical harpist, Ina Zdorovetchi.

Soh has since performed in the United States, United Kingdom, Singapore and Japan — where she played for Princess Takamado at the 6th US-Japan Youth Forum. Recently, she clinched the second prize (no first prize was given) at the 2016 Atlantic Symphony Concerto Competition, and will join the orchestra as a soloist in their upcoming season.

On making a living, Soh believes that because there are so few harpists around, there’s a need to fulfil several roles. “Orchestra needs a harpist? You go for it. A hotel needs some background music? You’re there. Someone wants to learn to play? Welcome to the harp world!” she says with a chuckle, adding that she played at the Raffles Hotel from 2010 to 2013, and currently teaches the harp.

As for her ultimate dream, Soh says there isn’t one big dream but many possible dreams she’d be equally pleased to live out. “I’d love to play in an orchestra, I’d love to teach, and I’d love to write. Maybe I can do them all? I also really loved computer/video games and their music when I was growing up — playing music from those genres would also fulfil another desire of mine!”

For more on Jane Soh and her work, visit www.jane.sg.

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