Nadia Pessoa

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Nadia Pessoa is an award-winning harpist whose career has spanned performances throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, and China. A versatile performer known for her distinctive sound, she has appeared as a soloist at Avery Fisher Hall, with the Lima Symphony Orchestra, and with the Fort Collins Symphony, where she made her debut playing the Ginastera Concerto in 2005.
Nadia has performed with the Richmond Symphony, Annapolis Symphony, Fairfax Symphony, Alexandria Symphony, Concert Artists of Baltimore, Washington Concert Opera, Eclipse Chamber Orchestra, Apollo Chamber Orchestra, the New Orchestra of Washington, New World Symphony, the National Symphony, and the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra. She has served as Principal Harpist for The Nutcracker with the Moscow Ballet, Richmond Ballet, the Manassas Ballet Theatre, and The Washington Ballet.
Prior to moving to Washington, D.C., she served as acting principal harp in the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, and taught at Louisiana State University. Nadia has also been on the faculties of the Washington Conservatory of Music and Howard University.
Growing up in a musical household, Nadia began playing the Latin American folk harp at the age of two, and spent her formative years composing and performing throughout Puerto Rico and Brazil with her father, who is also a harpist.
Nadia holds degrees from Indiana University and the University of Michigan, and also studied in Vienna, Austria. She is the recipient of awards from the National Society of Arts and Letters, the Fort Collins Symphony, the American Harp Society, the National Federation of Music Clubs, and Downbeat Magazine. Nadia attended the National Orchestral Institute, Domaine Forget, the Henry Mancini Institute, and spent two summers as the resident harpist at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, where she was featured in Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro.
Nadia can be heard on the GRAMMY award-winning recording of William Bolcom’s Songs of Innocence and Experience, under the direction of Leonard Slatkin, which was released on the Naxos label and won four 2005 GRAMMY awards, including “Best Classical Album.”
She has performed with artists including Lady Gaga, Tony Bennett, Diana Krall, Denyce Graves, Placido Domingo, Regina Carter, Wynonna Judd, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Randy Newman, David Daniels, Kansas, trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, Joe Alessi, Thomas Newman, Measha Brueggergosman, and Andy Williams, and has entertained notable guests including First Lady Michelle Obama, Meryl Streep, Martha Stewart, Michael Douglas, Stephen Colbert, Clint Eastwood, Brad Pitt, Quincy Jones, The Civil Wars, Matthew Morrison from Glee, Gary Sinise, George H. W. and George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton, and Vice President Joe Biden.
Nadia was featured in the Choral Arts Society of Washington’s performances of Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols at the Kennedy Center in 2013, as well as the Cathedral Choral Society’s performance of Leos Janacek’s Otcenas at the Basilica of the National Shrine.
Theater credits include A Little Night Music, A Chorus Line, Pippin, Kiss Me Kate, Sweeney Todd, Candide, starring Frederica von Stade, Titanic at Signature Theatre and Arena Stage’s critically-acclaimed production of The Fantasticks in 2009-2010.
Nadia has played under some of the world’s most respected conductors, including Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Gerard Schwarz, Leonard Slatkin, JoAnn Falletta, Gunther Schuller, Michael Stern, Lee Mills, and David Effron.
Known for seamlessly blending different styles of music, in 2013 she performed with GRAMMY award-nominated songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Christylez Bacon as part of the Washington Sound Museum series, in a concert juxtaposing classical music with beatbox and improvisation.
A proponent of new music, Nadia was a featured performer at the New Music Showcase at The World Harp Congress in Geneva, Switzerland, and performed Pierre Boulez’s tour-de-force Sur Incises for three harps, three pianos, and three percussionists in Bloomington, IN, and at the University of Louisville. She has collaborated with a number of award-winning composers including Susan Botti, Bright Sheng, Michael Daugherty, Nathaniel Stookey, Michael Djupstrom, and Sean Shepherd.
Recent performances include the world premiere of Gregory Spears’ opera Paul’s Case with D.C.-based UrbanArias, the world premiere of Norwegian composer Kjell Habbestad’s Edvard Munch Suite at the National Gallery of Art, John Luther Adams with the New Orchestra of Washington, and The Washington Ballet’s productions of Giselle and Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet at the Kennedy Center and Wolf Trap.

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