updated 07/17/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 07/17/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT
That would be St. James's Palace, where she is now Harpist to the Prince of Wales. Reviving a dormant centuries-old tradition (the last royal harpist was appointed in 1871), Prince Charles sent word around: Get me a harpist aged 19 to 25. The quest ended in the four-bedroom London flat that Finch, whose former teacher was on the prince's selection committee, shares with three other young students at the Royal Academy of Music. "My flatmate Nick said I had a call from the palace, and I said, 'Yeah, right,' " she recalls. But when the royal staff explained the situation, she says, "I felt pure excitement." And nerves: To get ready for her debut performance as royal harpist in May, Finch downed two bananas: She can't eat anything else before playing. ("I also have to find a corridor so I can pace around," she explains.) The reviews crowned her evening: "You dazzled the room with your virtuosity and musicality," Prince Charles wrote her.
Heady stuff for a girl from the village of Llanon, Wales. Finch, the youngest of three children born to Chris, 49, who works for an agricultural agency, and Marianne, 50, a college librarian and piano teacher (they are separated), also picked up a nifty gold brooch and a $3,750-a-year stipend (for about 12 gigs a year), but there has been a price: "I gave up my childhood to harp practice," she says. Making up for lost time, she has begun imperiling her career with in-line skating adventures. "It is a risk," Finch says, "but I have to do a few normal things."