Meet the Musicians: Hannah Thomas-Hollands

Name: Hannah Thomas-Hollands
Birthplace: Houston, TX
Instrument/Title: Cello
Member since: 2014

1.   How did you get started in music?   

My parents knew that music education was really important regardless of eventual hobbies, passions, and career choice, so I started doing kindermusik (elementary music education for young children) when I was three or four and took up cello when I was six and ready for my first instrument. 

 2.   Why did you choose your instrument?   

My sister played the violin, and I had no intention of picking the same instrument that she did! I knew I liked the string sound though, so cello it was.   

3.   What made you want to join Grand Rapids Symphony? 

They were looking for a cellist, and I was looking for a job! A lot of symphony musicians find careers this way: show up to an audition, get the job (hopefully!), and then move there without knowing a whole lot about the area. I was born in Houston, grew up just outside Washington DC, went to Cleveland for my undergrad and then Dallas for my Masters; moving somewhere totally new didn't really scare me. And, not surprisingly, I love it here in Grand Rapids--everyone is really kind, it's a good size, the food scene is great, and the beer is unparalleled. There's a lot to love about this area. 

 4.    What would you consider to be the musical highlight of your career?  

I don't think it has happened yet! I still have a lot of music and performing ahead of me, and it would be sad to think that my peak is already behind me. 

 5.   What are you most looking forward to performing during the 15-16 season? 

We're doing so many great pieces, it's so hard to pick just one! However, if I had to pick my personal top two, it would probably be Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet" and Debussy's "La Mer." They're both such evocative pieces in totally different ways, and ones that you don't hear every day (or season). 

 6.    When you’re not rehearsing or performing, what do you enjoy doing?

I have a pretty big private studio, so my students keep me pretty busy outside of performing! I love teaching, and it makes me a better player myself since I have to explain what I'm doing, and why, to somebody else. Outside of cello, though, I like to stay physically active, and I'm an indoor cycling instructor for Snap Fitness as well. I also run and do Bikram yoga (call me crazy), and I like to cook to fuel my body for doing all of this exercise!   

 7.    What is your favorite restaurant in Grand Rapids? 

Though I love a lot of places in Grand Rapids and am totally into the sustainable food movement that's thriving in the community, hands down my favorite is Bartertown Diner. I happen to live around the corner, and it's so dangerous, but so delicious. 

 8.   What is a song we would be surprised to know is on your IPod/IPhone? 

No Diggity by Blackstreet. Classical music is awesome, but every once in awhile, it's fun to break it down to some old school hip hop. 

 9.   If you had the chance to have dinner with one famous musician, alive or deceased, who would it be and why? 

Again, this is a tough choice here, but I'm going to go with the late Van Cliburn. He was actually my commencement speaker when I graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Music in 2012, just months before he passed away, and he just had so many wonderful insights about music and life in general. He was such a kind person, and I know he was full of more stories than I was able to hear that one day I heard him speak. 

 10.  What would you like people to know about the Grand Rapids Symphony?   

That it's great for EVERYONE. I feel like some people think it's such a "classy" thing to do, and it is--but it's also accessible! You don't have to wear a fur coat, and you don't have to have a lot of money. Just show up as you are and let your life be changed by what you hear.    

Posted by Sam Napolitan at 6:00 AM
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