Hi everybody. I'm Hannah and I play the violin. The group asked me to write a blog entry about myself, and even though I write my own blog about myself all the time, I am having a hard time figuring out what to write about here—
Playing violin with Chamber Project St. Louis has been such a fun experience! Let me tell you how my lifelong journey with the violin has led me here.
I started playing violin at the age of 5 using the Suzuki Method. If you aren't familiar with the Suzuki Method, the concept is that one can learn to play a musical instrument the same way one learns a language—starting young, listening to the music, repeating familiar songs (words), and with active parental involvement and positive reinforcement. I loved played the violin, but mostly I loved playing the violin with other people, an opportunity I had in Suzuki group lessons.
(And FOR other people too!)
As I grew up and continued to play, I became more serious about music, and found great joy (while having a lot of fun!) collaborating with other musicians. My first love was orchestra. I played in the Carolina Youth Symphony for many years, and looked forward to the weekly rehearsals. I loved the camaraderie of playing in a large group, and was inspired by how the entirety of the orchestra—the collective sound, the togetherness of the experience—was (cliché ahead!) truly greater than the sum of the individual parts.
As far as chamber music went, my only real experience until I got to late high school was playing duets with my sister Leslie, who is also a violinist. As I grew older and more experienced, I learned that playing chamber music with people who are not related to you is different than playing with your sister. You see, with those pesky non-relatives you have to be nicer and more diplomatic, and "because I'm older" is generally not an acceptable reason to do things your way. However, it is less likely that your fellow musicians will burst into tears or threaten to "tell mom", so that's a definite bonus!
(Performing with Leslie on one of her graduate recitals)
Anyway, by the time I got to high school I knew I wanted to go into music for a living. My goal was to become a violinist in a major symphony orchestra. Since I had so far pretty much achieved every goal I set my mind to I didn't see any reason why I wouldn't achieve that goal as well. I went to the Cleveland Institute of Music for college, and stayed there for graduate school as well. During that time I practiced hard, had many amazing orchestral and chamber music experiences, and, well, met my husband, Chris. I also began to realize how difficult it was to get a job in a symphony orchestra.
(Me, playing the violin a couple of years ago…at a wedding!)
Nonetheless I wasn't going to let that challenge stop me. I won my first (and probably last) symphony job right out of school and moved to North Carolina to play with the Charlotte Symphony. I had done it—I had realized my dream! I was on the cusp of my new life and career as a professional orchestral musician and couldn't wait for the future. But the future wouldn't turn out quite as I thought (does it ever?) After playing a couple of seasons with the orchestra, I just wasn't…happy—I realized that professional achievement doesn't automatically bring about personal fulfillment, and, frankly, I was miserable without Chris nearby. I left after a couple of years to return to Ohio to freelance and teach. Chris did a variety of different things, and then ultimately we decided to move to St Louis so he could play with the Symphony here.
That didn't leave much for me to do, unfortunately, so when the ladies of Chamber Project asked me to play a concert with them the other year, I jumped on it! After enduring a couple of years devoid of chamber music, it was a lifesaver. Not only are they all delightful people and friends, they are wonderful to work with and fun to make music with. I've learned so much from everyone and from playing with Chamber Project, not just musically, but in terms of engaging the audience, public speaking, and all kinds of administrative-type stuff that goes into running a chamber music group. It's been great, and I'm honored to be a part of it.
(after our March concert at the Wine Press)
It's funny how life surprises you. If you'd asked 16 year old Hannah if she thought she'd follow a man to a city where she didn't have any work she would have smacked you. If you'd asked that same Hannah if she thought she'd love playing chamber music with a bunch of women who had a chamber music project and a dream, she would have laughed in your face. But here I am, and all I know is that each year just keeps getting better.
(Warming up for a performance in April)
I hope you can join us for our Audience Choice Concert on June 1 at 8 pm at the Chapel. I'll be playing!