Remembering Bea Schroeder Rose; 1922–2014

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Bea Schroeder Rose

Beatrice Schroeder Rose, principal harpist in the Houston Symphony for 31 years, died in October at the age of 91. Rose had a distinguished career spanning six decades. Born in Ridgewood, N.J., her dream of becoming a harpist began at the age of nine during a family visit to Italy. The sight and sound of a golden harp in the window of an auspicious mansion captured her imagination. Returning home, her dream gradually took shape as she pursued her studies of music, first with the piano, with which she displayed unusual talent. Then, after persistent pleas, a rented harp was secured, and her weekly trips to New York to study with Carlos Salzedo and Lucille Lawrence began.

Growing up in a New Jersey community just an hour from New York brought opportunities not only for studying with renowned teachers, but also for hearing great music by world-class performers on stage. Such cultural advantages proved to be an inspiration for her musical growth. Early honors and awards culminated in a scholarship to the Mannes College of Music in New York City. Her first on-the-job orchestral training came from playing background music for popular radio dramas. In time, this led to regular work in the Radio City Music Hall Orchestra, playing a variety of music from classical to contemporary.

Rose enjoyed highly successful tours in the United States and Canada as soloist and in concert with violinist Stuart Canin and cellist Virginia Katims, under Columbia Artists Management. It was her orchestra work at Radio City Music Hall, however, which sparked her interest in seeking a position as a symphony harpist. Returning from touring in the spring of 1953, Rose auditioned and won the position of principal harp in the Houston Symphony. A year later, she married the Symphony tubist Bill Rose. At that time, the symphony was the orchestra for the Houston Grand Opera and the Houston Ballet. The imposing list of conductors included Leopold Stokowski, whose recordings made during his tenure were later selected for reissue on compact disc.

Throughout her career, she maintained an active teaching schedule at her home studio and at the University of Houston School of Music, where she taught for 45 years. Rose also served on the faculties of Sam Houston State Teachers’ College, St. Agnes Academy, and Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. She advocated the harp ensemble as a means of developing skill in group performances. In 1978 and 1983, PBS produced her Houston Harp Ensemble Christmas programs for national distribution, which then aired with repeated showings for many years. She wrote and published The Enchanted Harp (1974) as well as The Harp in the Orchestra (2002).

Rose retired from the Houston Symphony in 1984, but continued to teach privately for many years. Memorial contributions may be made to the Greater Houston Chapter of the American Harp Society at www.houstonharp.org. •

 

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    I’m sorry to hear about Bea. She was a terrific person as well as a terrific harpist. I first got to know her in 1964 when I filled in as second harpist for a Houston Symphony tour. The harp world has lost another icon.

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