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United by music

By Chen Nan | China Daily | Updated: 2018-04-28 09:27

From left: Harpist Jessica Fotinos; French horn player Emma Jane Whitney; Bulgarian percussionist Georgi Videnov. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Like Whitney, Jessica Fotinos, a harpist, says she had never been to China before and was also oblivious to Suzhou's existence.

She was living in Hamburg, Germany, when she saw the job advertised on a website for international auditions.

Suzhou is often referred to as the Venice of the East because it all but floats on water, crisscrossed by a network of attractive canals, in many places straddled by elegant arched bridges. Discovering this - not to mention the city's beautiful gardens and the striking Suzhou Culture and Arts Center Grand Theater that is home to the orchestra - Fotinos was smitten.

"It really felt like the chance to be part of history," says Fotinos, 29, who was born in the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges, not far from Melbourne, Australia.

"The prospect of being a founding member of a brand-new orchestra that will be around for potentially many, many years ... is very exciting."

She began learning piano and singing in a choir while at primary school. She learned to play harp with her neighbor then, who was a French horn player in the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and also taught the Celtic folk harp.

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