Ann Hobson Pilot

October 5, 2020. Philadelphia native Ann Hobson Pilot became one of the first Black musicians to win a position in a major symphony orchestra when she joined the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1969. A graduate of Philadelphia Girls’ High School and the Cleveland Institute of Music, Ms. Pilot was principal harp of the BSO for almost four decades.

More than 100 years ago, a settlement house in the Southwark section of Philadelphia provided services to immigrants, from English lessons to sewing classes. Soon it began offering music lessons, a mission it continues today.

In 1914, Settlement became an independent music school. And in 1917, it moved into what is still its main branch: the Mary Louise Curtis Building at 5th and Queen Streets. On a typical Saturday, the building is alive with the sounds of kids at play - playing music that is: 

Kid 1: I take ballet, violin and I go to music workshop.

Kid 2:  I play recorder and drums.

Kid 3: I play in a quartet, with piano, cello, violin and viola..

While its conservatory division became the nucleus of the Curtis Institute of Music in 1924, Settlement continued to offer instruction at all musical levels from beginner to pre-professional. Over the years, it has influenced hundreds of people who have gone onto success in various fields. Among them: Twister Chubby Checker, composer Michael Bacon, and the late Star Wars Director Irvin Kershner:

KERSHNER: I consider film as music, because its rhythmic, it has repeats, it has movements..

BACON: So Settlement to me was always a relaxed fun place to be, which is what you want to provide to children with music

CHUBBY CHECKER: Little did I know the things I’d learn there I’d be using in my music career, far beyond my expectations..

Today, in addition to its main building, Settlement has branches in Germantown, the Northeast, Willow Grove, West Philadelphia, and Camden.

Harpist Ann Hobson Pilot

Feb 19, 2011

In this encore broadcast Jill speaks with harpist Ann Hobson Pilot, who in 2009 retired from her post as harpist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. We speak about her personal experience as the first and only African American musician in one of the world's most prestigious symphonies, and how that aspect of the music business has changed. Ms. Pilot appeared in recital with violinist Tai Murray on November 21, 2010 at the Settlement Music School's Germantown branch in Philadelphia.

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