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Volume 26, Number 4 — April 2019

Hannah Dishman has an eclectic musical career

Hannah Dishman performs “Four Islands” in the Schwab Vocal Rising Stars recital series (photo by Gabe Palacio)
Hannah Dishman performs “Four Islands” in the Schwab Vocal Rising Stars recital series (photo by Gabe Palacio)
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By Leslie Grace | A! Magazine for the Arts | January 30, 2019

Hannah Dishman’s career includes opera, classical singing, electronic dance music and playing a robot in a short opera film.

“I played an R5-D4 robot (Star Wars character) in a short opera film shot in New York City and had an absolute blast making a fool of myself. When I played an Apparition in Verdi’s ‘Macbeth’ at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, we, the female choristers, got to make babies from wet clay and set them in the cauldron during the show. We basically made performance art out of playing in the mud.

“I struggle with being a perfectionist. Being a perfectionist brings on all sorts of anxieties in the practice room (my bedroom currently) and usually affects how I audition or can even kill my ambition to take an audition. I know so many musicians, singers in particular, who deal with this vicious lie in the back of their heads telling them they aren’t good enough.

“One way I try to combat my audition anxiety is to surround myself with an army of supporters — family/mentors and a few friends who truly want to see me succeed. I also like to plan far in advance so I don’t feel rushed when I’m nearing a deadline. When I begin to get too involved in a piece of music that I’m learning or performing, it helps to escape into my ‘create my own music’ mode. Creating has always been a cleansing and meditative experience for me, and prayer always helps,” Dishman says.

Her advice for young musicians includes a lot of hard work but includes making time for fun.

“I think it’s important to not forget about growing in other aspects of your life while studying music. To truly be an artist, you need to be open to trying new things, going on adventures and living a life that goes beyond musical performance. Just in the short time as a working artist, I see so many unhappy performers and I think this might be the culprit.

“Take as many performance opportunities as you possibly can as you really never know whom you will meet. I regret not doing this earlier as I feel like I would be further along in my career. More often than not it is whom you know in this business. Network yourself silly.

“You need to know your music/text inside and out which means practicing until you are probably at the point of scream crying. The performances I am most unhappy with are the ones where I did not practice nearly enough alone and off stage,” she says.

She started her musical studies at 4 years old while taking Suzuki piano lessons at King College. She moved on to studying piano with Connie Wurster of Bristol, Tennessee, for many years where she further developed her musicality and imagination. Wurster entered Hannah in the Bristol Music Club competition’s piano division at 9 years old where she won first place — the first of three wins given by the Bristol Music Club. She also studied guitar for several years with blues guitarist Tim Paretti of Abingdon, Virginia.

At 15, in preparation to play the role of Sandy in Virginia High School’s production of “Grease,” she began studying with Mark Owen Davis and credits him for sparking her love for singing in all its forms. It was during this high school production of “Grease” that her drama teacher/director, the late Kristin Palmer of Glade Spring Virginia, inspired her love for the theater.

She received her bachelor and master of music degrees at Manhattan School of Music. She studied with baritone Maitland Peters and world renowned soprano and actor/singer, Catherine Malfitano. While in Malfitano’s studio, Dishman learned the art of dynamic story telling and character study.

In September 2016, Dishman performed in the Civic Opera House as a finalist for a highly competitive position at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. The company auditioned thousands of singers nationwide.

The following spring she made her professional debut with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis as a Gerdine Young Artist where she performed as an Apparition and Refugee in the chorus of Verdi’s “Macbeth” and covered the role of Firdaus Noman in the world premiere of the Grammy nominated opera “Shalimar the Clown.”

She was invited back for a second season at OTSL in 2017 to perform the role of Ruthie Joad in “The Grapes of Wrath” and covered Annio in Mozart’s “La clemenza di Tito.” In the same year, she was a featured soloist at the annual Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts’ Schwab Vocal Rising Stars recital series titled “Four Islands” as a part of the New York Festival of Song series.

Most recently, she performed a series called “The Undiscovered” with The Paramount Chamber Players in the Tri-Cities and with Chamber Music for the Outer Cape in Provincetown Massachusetts, led by pianist Craig Combs. In it she performed, along with piano, violin and cello, a song cycle by Alan Louis Smith titled “Vignettes: Covered Wagon Woman” based on the diary of Margaret Frink.

Other operatic credits include Count Orlofsky from “Die Fledermaus,“ Melloe from Cavalli’s “La Doriclea,” Third Lady and Third Spirit from “Die Zauberflöte,” Mrs. Segstrom from Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music,” Meg March from Adamo’s “Little Women” and Meg Page from Verdi’s “Falstaff.”

Short film credits include “Connection Lost: L’opera di Tinder,” “Something Blue: L’opera di Bachelor,” “Someone Like Me: L’opera di Facebook” and “Rumspringawakening.”

Aside from a career in classical singing, she has written and recorded vocals for New York City based Electronic Dance Music duo, Truth x Lies, on their hit single “City Lights,” which is at several million streams on YouTube, Spotify and Apple Music. Dishman is working on a solo album in the genres of electronica and experimental folk.

Dishman resides in New York City and is the daughter of Mike and Debbie Dishman of Bristol, Virginia, granddaughter of Clarence and Betty Dishman of Bristol, Virginia, Ann Smith of Bluff City, Tennessee and Steve Barnes of Kingsport, Tennessee.

Martha Eason is thriving on stage in Germany

Hannah Dishman

Dishman on stage.

Dishman is another scene on stage.