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The first Japanese person to win a silver medal in the world's most prestigious harp competition:Ms. Hanako Hirano

The USA International Harp Competition, one of the two biggest harp competitions in the world, attracts top class players from all over the world. In the midst of such players, Ms. Hirano, although this was her first international competition, won a silver medal. "For me, it was my first performance, so maybe I got lucky. The judges know the past of most of the other contestants, both good and bad reputations." Perhaps because she was not known worldwide, her playing skills were genuinely evaluated.

Ms. Hirano is petite, and with her thin shoulders supports a harp bigger than her own body while playing. "The moment I lean my harp on my shoulder on stage, all my tension goes away." She met harps for the first time when she was two years old. She went to a friendfs house and the moment she touched the instrument, she thought "I want to learn how to play!" "My parents said I could take lessons when I got taller. As promised, when I got taller, they let me start, and I was ecstatic!"

When she was in high school, she decided to go pro, but surprisingly picked Waseda University instead of a music school. "I wanted to concentrate on my studies as well. Also, by getting in touch with a wide range of other things, my harp playing will acquire some depth." She willingly interacts with many people, and tries to watch many kabuki and theater performances as well. At Waseda, she joined the Waseda Orchestra. "I wanted to feel other instruments" tunes with my own body, and with that my harp playing also acquired depth. Furthermore, playing in a group is so different from playing solo, and I have learned to like working as a group."

Every time she performs, she tries to put in her own uniqueness while delicately playing the notes of the piece. "If every single time I played a piece it was the exact same thing, it would be like playing a record," she says, aiming to become a harpist that can express music differently day by day.

"The wonderful thing about the harp is it has a soft image to it. Many composers write pieces based on that image. On the other hand, there have recently been some strong pieces that have surfaced and they are rapidly increasing." A kind of softness exists inside strength. Exactly like that image of a harp, Ms. Hirano smiled softly.

(Offered by WASEDA WEEKLY)

Ms. Hanako Hirano

Born in Nagasaki in 1988. Graduate of Kaichi High School. Currently a second-year student at Waseda in the School of Education. 1998, performs in a Japan-Germany Youth Concert. 2006, passes the Ozawa Music School orchestral audition. 2007 July, enters the 7th USA International Harp Competition: awarded the silver medal. While participating in the Waseda Orchestra, she plays solo as well.