Phillips, Edna (1907-2003) | University of Illinois Archives
Edna Phillips (January 7, 1907 - December 2, 2003) was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, and became first woman to occupy a principal position with a major American symphony when she joined the Philadelphia Orchestra as first harp in 1930. At the age of seventeen she began studying harp with Florence Wightman in 1924, and three years later enrolled as a piano and harp student at the Curtis Institute of Music in the fall of 1927. The following year she began her private studies with Carlos Salzedo who taught harp at Curtis and was one of Wightman's teachers. In 1929 Phillips joined the Philadelphia Orchestra shortly after graduation from Curtis at the age of 22.
Phillips began teaching harp at the Philadelphia Conservatory of Music in 1933 and remain with that instituion until 1972 when she retired. Concerned with the meagerness of solo music repertoire for harp, she commissioned numerious works for harp from such composers as Harl McDonald, Paul White, Alberto Ginastera, Nicolai Berezowsky, Ernst Krenek, and Erno von Dohnanyi. Her most famous commission was Ginastera's Concerto for Harp which was premiered by Nicanor Zabaleta and the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1965.
Phillips married Samuel Rosenbaum, a prominent attorney and board member of the Philadelphia Orchestra, in 1933. However she never changed her professional name and was always referred to as "Miss Phillips" throughout the remainder of her career.