Sarah Bullen was appointed principal harp of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) in 1997 by then-Music Director Daniel Barenboim. Prior to the CSO, Bullen was principal harp of the New York Philharmonic from 1987 to 1997, having been appointed to the position by then-Music Director Zubin Mehta. She began her orchestral career in 1981 as principal harp of the Utah Symphony.
Bullen has won critical acclaim as a soloist throughout her career, with more than 50 concerto appearances, including those with the CSO under Daniel Barenboim and Pierre Boulez and with the New York Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta and Erich Leinsdorf, among others. She has served as a soloist, chamber musician, lecturer and judge at numerous American Harp Society conferences and at the World Harp Congress and the USA International Harp Competition. For her achievements in the field, Harp Column magazine has recognized Bullen as one of the foremost harpists of the 20th century.
As a leading educator, Bullen has taught master classes throughout the world. During her tenure in New York, she served as chairperson of the harp department of the Manhattan School of Music. In Chicago, she was a professor of harp at Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts for several years through 2016 and currently maintains a private studio. Several of Bullen’s students have gone on to enjoy major professional careers.
She is the author of the best-selling book Principal Harp: A Guidebook for the Orchestral Harpist, in two volumes. Bullen is also the co-author of Anthology of Harp Duets, Volume One, published in 2016 by Lyon & Healy. Her solo and chamber music recordings include The Essential Harp and Lyon & Healy Hall’s Inaugural Concert, with the latter featuring performances by Bullen along with fellow CSO musicians Louise Dixon (flute) and Max Raimi (viola).
Bullen was a student of Marcel Grandjany, Mildred Dilling and Susann McDonald. As a Naumburg Award recipient, she graduated from the Juilliard School with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music.