Karen Vaughan

Head of Harp


Harp - Head of Harp

Former Co-principal Harp of the London Symphony Orchestra

Coach at major festivals

Associate Artistic Director, World Harp Congress

Founder member of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra

Extensive recording career

Studied at the Royal Academy of Music; Head of Harp here since 2010

Karen Vaughan was a founder member of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and often appeared as a concerto soloist. She was then principal harp of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra for six years before her return to London in 1984, when she was appointed co-principal harp of the London Symphony Orchestra, a position she held until 2015. She played with the LSO under the baton of such eminent conductors as Abbado, Tilson Thomas, Bernstein, Boulez, Haitink, Sir Colin Davis and Gergiev, and collaborated on projects with Sir Paul McCartney, John Williams and Elvis Costello. She can be heard on numerous classical and crossover recordings with the LSO and on the soundtracks for films such as Star Wars, Braveheart, The Queen and Harry Potter.

Karen is on the Board of Directors of the World Harp Congress, and also serves on the Corporation. A participant in congresses in Dublin (2005) and Amsterdam (2008), she presented a masterclass on Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols in Vancouver in 2011.

In 2007, Karen served on the jury for the Seventh USA International Harp Competition in Bloomington and in 2013 for the first European Lyon & Healy Awards, in Cardiff.  She has been co-leader of the Futures course at Harpmasters, Switzerland and is in demand as an examiner throughout the UK. For many years she was Vice President of the UK Harp Association.

Karen has given masterclasses in Ireland, Birmingham, London, Beijing and Tokyo. She gave the harp masterclasses for the YouTube Symphony Orchestra in 2008 and YTSO2 in 2010. One of the sixteen harpists featured on The London Harp Sound and Baby Harp CDs, she also plays in the duo Cavatina with violinist Gillian Findlay.

Karen studied piano, flute and harp at the Academy, where she held the Baume (Manx) Scholarship and twice won the Julia Leney Prize for Harp. After she graduated she continued her studies with the great Russian harpist Maria Korchinska and took an active part in the International Harpweeks held in Holland.

Karen’s past pupils have had considerable success in national and international competitions and hold orchestral and teaching positions worldwide.

Personal philosophy of teaching

Alongside my performing career of over forty years, I have always loved to teach and being head of a relatively small department means I really get to know every student. I am fortunate to be surrounded by a wonderful team of experts who deliver specialist classes in orchestral playing, contemporary techniques, sight reading, jazz, technique, opera, early harp and ballet. Our philosophy is to prepare students for the many-faceted life of a professional musician by providing them with the skills to tackle anything they are asked to take on! We encourage the initiative and creativity necessary for a portfolio career in music and our alumni are a testament to the success of their years at the Academy.

Selected recordings

I have been an orchestral player for over 40 years, starting my career in Scotland with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Royal Scottish National Orchestra and then moving back to London, where I have played with the London Symphony Orchestra for 30 years. I have covered a tremendous variety of genres such as ballet, opera, symphonic repertoire, light music and film sessions. I can be heard on numerous classical and crossover recordings with the LSO, for instance.

Candide conducted by Leonard Bernstein. Deutsche Grammophon

Elvis Costello’s ballet Il Sogno conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas

Debussy works for LSO Live conducted by Valery Gergiev

Paul McCartney’s Standing Stone. EMI

Puccini’s La Rondine conducted by Sir Antonio Pappano. EMI Classics

Christmas with You with Natalie Cole. Hallmark

Smetana’s Vyšehrad from Má Vlast for LSO Live under Sir Colin Davis

Film soundtrack for The Queen by Alexandre Desplat

Ridout’s Concerto for Flute, Harp and Strings with Paul Edmund-Davies

Harp masterclasses for the YouTube Symphony Orchestra in 2008 and 2010

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