Lidia Stankulova

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Lidia Stankulova has enjoyed a million notes over the years, but the most important one of her life was not hers, in fact it wasn't even a musical note. It was made of paper and stuck to a classroom door when Lidia was 11. It was from a harp teacher looking for new students.

Lidia already had a gift for music, growing up in Sofia with the emotive melodies of Bulgarian folk, learning piano at 5 and being accepted by the National Music School at 7. But from the day she saw that note, it was always about the harp.

At first it was an aesthetic fascination with the instrument, it just looked more interesting than the others. But that teacher turned out to be Bulgaria's finest harpist, Prof. Malina Hristova, who had herself learnt from the legendary Russian harpist Vera Dulova. And very soon Lidia was infatuated with the celestial sounds she was making.

The class had two harps and Lidia was the youngest of 14 students aged 11 to 18, yet somehow she always ended up with the best instrument and generally hogged it for longer than anyone else. So when she attended her first major harp competition in Sofia, it was bizarre to see that everyone had their own intricate harps of all colours and sizes: golden harps, celtic harps, baby harps whatever harp you could dream of. This was also the first time she heard live jazz, via the vibrant blue harp of the great French harpist Jakez Francois, and from other greats such as Elizabeth Fontan-Binoche.

In fact, years later it was Madame Binoche herself who taught Lidia an important lesson about overcoming musical obstacles. During a master class, Lidia complained that her small hands were restricting her playing at which point Prof. Binoche placed an even smaller hand over Lidia's mouth and told her to stop making excuses.

After school and numerous competitions, Lidia was selected for the Bulgarian National Academy of Music where she achieved both a Bachelors and Masters degree. Her career also took off, joining the Opera Passion orchestra and performing across France in concerts dedicated to the opera diva Maria Callas. She regularly took part in recording with the Bulgarian National Radio Orchestra, as well as playing with the Bulgarian National Philharmonic Orchestra and the Symphonic Orchestra of the Academy. During a busy time, there was a myriad of other interesting concerts like the Orpheus' Land concerts with The Seven Saints Ensemble in Germany, and festivals such as the Sofia Spring Festival and Festival of Antique Drama in Macedonia where she won 1st prize for outstanding performances.

But Lidia couldn't help but look for the next big thing, fascinated with broadening her horizons musically and globally. That's why she went to Seoul where she became resident harpist at the Sheraton Grande. And that's why she came to Dubai to be resident harpist at the ?ber-exclusive Royal Meridien Beach Resort & Spa.

What she hadn't been expecting from the Middle East was a bizarre musical home-coming - instantly discovering an eerie similarity between Arabic music and the Bulgarian folk songs of her childhood. And given this new source of inspiration, it's here Lidia has finally stayed put, exploring the local sounds in-depth and becoming the finest Arabic harpist in the region.