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Meet Hannah Lewis

Today we’d like to introduce you to Hannah Lewis.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I’ve been surrounded by music and art my entire life. My mom is a cellist and my dad was an actor, and all of my (many) siblings ended up pursuing entertainment in some way, whether as performers, visual artists, managers, educators, the list goes on. I started taking piano lessons when I was five and started singing around that same time. My early musical influences were about as mixed a bag as you can get–Joni Mitchell, Evanescence, Britney Spears, Avenged Sevenfold, Tears for Fears, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, Paramore. In addition, of course, to the daily classical music radio station listening (if my mom was in the car, that is). I learned to sing by mimicking the styles of the singers I heard my family playing in the car, the singers on the mix CDs my brother would make (that I would subsequently steal). I believe that a lot of that early influence still remains in my voice and musical choices today.

I sang in choirs throughout most of middle/high school and college but some of my most important vocal experiences have been singing in contemporary a cappella groups. I was 15 or 16 at the time Pitch Perfect and the Sing Off were at their most popular, and I happened to go to a school with a thriving a cappella program (still rare at the time–shoutout to Calabasas High School and Josh Barroll for helping to pave the way!), so it was the perfect storm for me. I sang in CHS’s all-female group Bare Rhythm, then their co-ed group Unstrumental, and then Acasola at Cal State Northridge, which I also music directed for three years. In between Unst and Acasola, I attended A Cappella Academy, a fantastic camp for young singers in LA. In 2018 I joined my pro group From the Roots, which kept me singing (and arranging) a cappella after college. As you can tell, it kind of became my life, in more ways than just the obvious–also in 2018, Mr. Barroll at CHS asked me to come back as a coach for Bare Rhythm, my first ever a cappella group. I now coach two all-female high school groups, Bare Rhythm and Muses at John Burroughs High School in Burbank.

I feel that my a cappella experience, as well as my many years of piano lessons, helped my singing in ways I will never truly understand but am eternally grateful for. A cappella gave me the confidence and skill to hold my own in group singing settings as well as sessions where it’s just me and the mic, and piano gave me the mental keyboard with which to sightread quickly and really feel the intervals. Additionally, I will never be able to thank my family enough for providing that musical and artistic backbone in my life and encouraging me to always express myself and share my abilities.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I am so lucky to have such a wonderful family and parents who encouraged me to hone my skills and keep getting better. However, my parents are a bit older than the typical, especially my dad, who was 62 when I was born. I was actually my dad’s 10th child over the span of many years, and while I love being a Lewis and sharing his legacy, as the baby of the family I didn’t get too many good years with him. My dad had a myriad of health complications starting when I was around eight years old; knee replacement surgery, heart attacks, a stroke, eventually coming to struggle in the final years of his life with Parkinson’s Disease and Dementia. I was watching my parents face his own mortality before my eyes and helping to care for him as his mobility lessened and lessened, something my friends and other kids my age couldn’t relate to and won’t experience for many years to come (God willing). He finally passed away on April 7, 2015. I was 18 and just a couple of months away from graduating high school.

A death in the family can cause certain reactions that you wouldn’t necessarily expect. I saw long-burned bridges mended again, even temporarily, and I grew closer to my half-siblings than I ever had been, our dad and his crazy, terrible, wonderful life being our greatest common factor. And I don’t have to tell you that losing a parent is a very hard thing. It occurred to me that he wouldn’t see me graduate high school OR college, he would never walk me down the aisle at my wedding, he would never meet my children. The house seemed unnaturally quiet for several months afterward. My dad’s live-in nurse that had been with us in the months before his death left the profession afterwards; she said it was just too hard losing him. He was one of the funniest people, and even in the midst of his battles with Parkinson’s and Dementia he always had a joke or a kind word. He wasn’t a perfect person, but he was authentic to the core and touched so many lives along the way. In this life, we are lucky if we find a few people who truly see us, who understand who and what we are completely. My dad was that person for me.

Since then, every performance I’ve given, every success I’ve achieved, I think of my dad. I think of what he would say and how proud he would be. His memory has been a huge source of strength and comfort for me in the past few years as I’ve grown up, gone through huge changes and periods of growth, and begun to build my career as a musician.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
As a professional musician, I have to have at least a few plates spinning at all times, but I’m a singer above all. I do session and live performance work. In addition to performing, I am an arranger, composer, and music educator, specializing in a cappella education as well as private piano lessons. I am proud of my ability to teach as well as do, and I think my strong sense of professionalism sets me apart from others. I value timeliness and respect extremely highly in my work and always treat all professional situations the same, whether I’m being paid or volunteering my time.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
It’s hard to pick one but a few of the proudest have definitely been the times I’ve performed at Carnegie Hall. Through different a cappella events, I’ve gotten the chance to perform there three times, and the last two times (September 2018 and October 2019) I sang solos on the Carnegie Hall stage. Performing is one of my favorite things in the world, but performing on a stage with so much history is a whole other story. Finishing a solo or a set, hearing the applause and looking up at all the tiers of seats in this historic theatre is a feeling I will never ever forget.

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Image Credit:
Brandon Soriano, Laura Degraw

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