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Biography
Dawn Hannay

Violist Dawn Hannay has been a member of the New York Philharmonic since 1979. Before joining the Orchestra, she was principal violist with the Omaha Symphony and the Nebraska Sinfonia, and was a member of the Concerto Soloists of Philadelphia and the Opera Company of Philadelphia. She also served as artist-in-residence at the Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne, Australia, and was a member of Ensemble I, a sextet specializing in works for unusual instrumentation.

Ms. Hannay enjoys performing chamber music, appearing often with the New York Philharmonic Ensembles. She spends the summers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, playing with the Grand Teton Music Festival where she is a founding member of the string quartet Wind River 4. In March 2001, she was a featured soloist and guest principal viola with the London Chamber Players on a tour of South Africa. She is an alumna of the Music Academy of the West, now a partner in the New York Philharmonic Global Academy.

She is an avid reader, athlete, and nature enthusiast; her interests include hiking, camping, skiing, bird watching, and her cat and dog. She loves to travel, and has been seen hiking and birding recently in exotic locales such as Australia, South Africa, Brazil, and the Ecuadorian Amazon.

“Outside of work, I like wildlife conservation, bird watching, and hiking and camping with my dog, Toby. In August 2004 I worked as a volunteer on a research project studying lions in Kenya.”

Q&A with Dawn Hannay
THE FACTS: Born in Cortland, New York. Attended the North Carolina School of the Arts; received a bachelor’s in music from Indiana University. Prior to the Philharmonic: Principal violist with the Omaha Symphony; member of the Concerto Soloists of Philadelphia. At the Philharmonic: Joined in 1979. Longtime Chairperson of the Musicians’ Orchestra Committee

EARLIEST MUSICAL MEMORY: My father was a composer and was always listening to symphonic music around the house. My grandfather was a professional violinist in New York, and I decided I wanted to play the violin, too. I started the violin at age 10, but the following summer I heard the viola at Merrywood Music Camp. I loved the sound and knew at once that it was the instrument for me. I started playing the viola at 11.

WHO WERE YOUR MOST IMPORTANT MUSICAL INFLUENCES? Jerry Horner at the North Carolina School of the Arts, who taught me how to produce a beautiful sound, the wonderful violinist Josef Gingold, and violist, Walter Trampler

WHEN DID YOU KNOW THAT YOU WANTED TO BE A PROFESSIONAL MUSICIAN? As soon as I started playing the viola. I never had any doubt that I would be a violist.

WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT BEING A MUSICIAN? Seeing the look of pleasure on the faces of audience members and knowing that you are transporting them away from the humdrum of their daily lives

WHAT WOULD YOU BE IF NOT A MUSICIAN? A wildlife conservation biologist and naturalist

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENTS WITH THE ORCHESTRA? Performing with Leonard Bernstein in his last years

MOST INSPIRING COMPOSERS: Mozart and Mahler

IF YOU COULD PLAY ANOTHER INSTRUMENT, WHAT WOULD IT BE? Percussion. I envy them and their ability to play so many different instruments. They always look like they’re having so much fun!

WHAT’S IN YOUR CD PLAYER RIGHT NOW? I’m listening to the pop singer, Nellie McKay.

DO YOU EVER PERFORM IN OTHER GROUPS? I play a lot of chamber music. I would have loved to play jazz, but never learned to improvise. I also enjoy performing with the great musicians at the Grand Teton Music Festival.

ARE THERE MUSICIANS IN YOUR FAMILY? My mother was a flutist. My father was head of music theory and composition at the University of North Carolina. Before his passing in 2002, he wrote more than 150 compositions, including 10 symphonies.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO OUTSIDE OF WORK? Wildlife conservation, bird watching, and hiking and camping with my dog, Toby. In 2005 I worked on a lion research project in Kenya and was a guest of honor at a traditional tribal wedding ceremony in Samburu. My enthusiasm for the natural world has taken me to Uganda, South Africa, Peru, Ecuador, and Brazil, and in 2006, I will be participating in a biodiversity survey of a remote tributary of the Amazon in Peru. I am an avid reader of fiction, and am studying Spanish and Swahili.
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