Sylvia Meyer was born in Madison, Wisconsin, the child of Balthasar H. Meyer, an interstate commerce commissioner. She started playing the harp at age seven, choosing the instrument because her mother had bought a harp at an estate sale. She studied music at the Academy of the Holy Cross near Washington, D.C., and graduated from the Western High School in 1924. She attended the University of Wisconsin from where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa in geology. She also was a graduate of the Peabody Institute, a conservatory associated with the Johns Hopkins University, from where she received a teacher’s certificate and the Artist’s Diploma, the first harpist to do so.
Meyer trained at the harp with Carlos Salzedo in Camden, Maine, who taught her a style of aggressive playing. She played with the Baltimore Symphony for three seasons. Salzedo recommended her to Hans Kindler, the then conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO), which she joined in 1933. Meyer also performed concerts for the National Concert Association. She received praise for her performance of Giovanni Battista Pescetti‘s Sonata in C Minor, a technically challenging piece, as well as compositions by Salzedo designed to exploit the full potential of the harp. In 1939, she joined the Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Virginia as a part-time instructor in harp.
In 1966, Meyer needed plastic surgery to restore a fingertip after a gardening accident. She recovered, but was forced to leave the NSO following her long medical absence. Meyer was acclaimed for her rendition of Alberto Ginastera‘s Harp Concerto, op. 25 in 1968. Meyer received the Orah Ashley Lamke Distinguished Alumna Award in 1970 from Mu Phi Epsilon. In 1998, she was given the Elizabeth Mathias Award by the same fraternity for her achievements in music. Meyer was part of the founding committee of the World Harp Congress in 1981.