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Meet the Met Opera’s New Principal Harpist and BYU Alum

October 2023 Alumni Highlight Article

Hannah Cope Johnson sits with her harp.
Photo courtesy of Hannah Cope Johnson

Just four years after graduating from BYU, Hannah Cope Johnson hit an amazing stride in her musical career when she recently became the principal harpist in the Metropolitan Opera. How did she get there? Hannah started playing the harp at just five years old. She says of this experience, “My mother took me to every harp lesson, wrote down detailed notes, sat with me, and helped me practice every day when I was young.” By the time Hannah was twelve, she had fallen in love with the instrument. She says, “I always wanted to be a professional musician.” Hannah attributes this desire to her dad, Kenneth Cope, who is a singer-songwriter. Hannah’s father was an inspiration and example to her, helping her see that she could be a professional musician one day. “I had no reason not to try,” she states.

When Hannah attended BYU, there were three main factors that enhanced her experience in the School of Music and made an impact on her career: orchestral ensembles, her private studio teacher, and interactions with guest artist events. During her freshman year, Hannah played in an orchestra for the first time, and it helped her learn a new approach to music and grow as a musician. Her studio teacher, Dr. Nicole Brady, taught Hannah essential harp techniques that she continues to use daily. Hannah also recalls that before performing at BYU, visiting artist Johannes Moser, a German-Canadian cellist, took a moment to make eye contact with several audience members. The connection she felt during that experience inspired Hannah to make a conscious effort to connect with her audiences, too.

As principal harp in the Metropolitan Orchestra, Hannah describes her job as being fulfilling, yet rigorous. The orchestra rehearses multiple operas at one time. The orchestra members are required to be able to jump between operas during rehearsals and performances. Hannah’s repertoire currently consists of fifteen different operas. Because of her skilled harp technique and many hours of practice, she is able to gracefully glide between shows.

There’s no secret sauce for success. It’s just caring about your craft.

Talking about her love for music, Hannah says, “Music is like art in real time. You get to partake, and then it’s gone.” While she does experience love and success in music, Hannah grapples with disappointment and doubt at times. Speaking on how she deals with this, Hannah boldly claims, “There are things I can control, and things I cannot. ... What I can control is how I play and how I feel about the product I am putting out as a musician.” Hannah feels confident in her talents when she focuses on working hard, practicing, and caring about her music. “There’s no secret sauce for success,” she says, “It’s just caring about your craft.”

When she moved out east, Hannah met so many unique people with various stories, and they all had one thing in common—a love for musical art. “There is virtue inside of everyone who’s trying to create this art, this beauty,” she says. Hannah describes that she is able to find and share the light of Christ with others by connecting through this common thread of music. “When you see someone’s art, you see their humanity,” she says.

Watch Hannah perform Rondo on the trio “Zitti Zitti” from The Barber of Seville below.

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