Edna Phillips Rosenbaum, the “first lady” of the Philadelphia Orchestra, was so frustrated by the lack of music featuring the harp that she urged composers to write pieces specifically for her. Several complied, including Harl McDonald who composed “Scenes From Childhood,” and Paul White who wrote “Sea Chanty.”
Rosenbaum began studying music when she was seven years old. She learned to play the piano, but switched to the harp after seeing one in a store window and begging her mother to purchase it.
She attended the Curtis Institute of Music, and was invited to join the Philadelphia Orchestra as first harpist when she was 22. At the time, she was the first woman to occupy a principal position with a major American symphony. Although she officially “retired” from performing in 1946, Rosenbaum returned to the orchestra pit a year later to play for Arturo Toscanini. During a rehearsal, the conductor declared: “That woman is an angel.”
For the next 40 years, Rosenbaum worked as the director of the Settlement Music School. She received the Philadelphia Mayor