Introducing Dana Hansen!

What’s your name?

My name is Dana Hansen.  The only interesting thing about my name is that my mother planned to name me Dana whether I was a boy or a girl.

Where are you from?

I was born and raised on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. It’s a beautiful place to grow up. I had a lot of freedom to roam around on my own that my own kids will never have. When I got to about seventh grade, my mom started driving me up to Boston on the weekends to take lessons and do youth orchestra. The youth orchestras in Boston are spectacular. I stayed on in Boston for college, did my master’s degree at Juilliard, spent a year with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestras, and then got my job with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2005. I got married in 2001 (early, by my generation’s standards) and had my three daughters in 2009, 2011, and 2012. They are called Phoebe, Susanna, and Madeline and they are all darling.

How did you come to the viola?

I did switch from violin.  I started violin when I was four, with the Suzuki method.  I also played piano very seriously through the end of high school.  When I was a sophomore in high school, my youth orchestra in Boston suffered a sudden shortage of violists, and I was recruited by my conductor, David Commanday, to switch.  I liked the viola right away.  I especially remember loving the violists when I was at the summer music camp Kinhaven, and feeling like viola was really the right instrument for me, even more than piano, which I also really loved.

Are you a Juilliard student?  Were you?  Or do you now work as part of the studio?

I got my MM from Juilliard in 2003.  I almost went to Juilliard for my undergraduate studies, but decided to go to Harvard instead.  For three of the years I was in college, though, I studied with Heidi at Aspen.  That was a big part of my decision to go to Harvard–I figured I could at least study with Heidi and be part of her studio in the summer.  I’m really glad that I had some of both the college and conservatory experience.  I definitely feel like I did need the time in graduate school to move forward with a career in music.  I loved being at Juilliard and I try to go back and visit whenever I am in New York.

Tell us about one of your favorite performances?

My favorite performance I played was when the LA Philharmonic did Tristan and Isolde with a video by Bill Viola and a partial staging.  Our then music director Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted.  It was a stunning production, the singers were amazing, and Esa-Pekka was totally in his element.   A fun and challenging viola part too!

If you could perform any viola piece, what would it be?

Walton concerto with orchestra.  I’ve never played a viola concerto with an orchestra.  I’ve spent so much time with it, it would be nice to play it the way it’s actually meant to be played!

If you could play any non-viola piece, what would it be?

I wish I could still play the piano well, and the repertoire I wish I could play is endless.   Bach and Ravel in particular, and I also would like to play sonatas with my string-playing friends!  Someday when my kids are older I want to take piano lessons again.

Who made your viola and how did you get to be the one playing it?

Otto Erdesz.  My parents bought it for me in high school, I’ve been playing it since then.  It’s a beautiful sounding instrument and I’m lucky to have found it so early in life.

You are forced by the United States Government to not practice for a day.  What do you do with yourself?

Unfortunately these days with my three daughters, days when I don’t practice are all too common.  Those days I am doing a lot of driving my four year-old to her violin lessons, hanging out at the playground, feeding babies, and so on.  But if I could do whatever I wanted for a day, I would sleep in, read some of a novel, take a yoga class or go for a hike, and host a dinner party.


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