Sara Hahn had no desire to pursue a music career when she was younger, but after falling in love with the flute when she was in high school, she became the principal flutist in the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. Now she wants to use her musical talents to not only further her own career but also to teach the next generation of flutists.
Growing up in Winnipeg, Man., Hahn had no idea that she would grow up to become an accomplished musician. She started taking piano lessons when she was six years old to follow in the footsteps of her older sister, who is now a professional piano player. However, out of Hahn’s entire family, they were the only ones to be involved in the music industry.
“There are musicians, I think, in my very extended family, perhaps. But there’s not a history of that in my family. Neither my sister nor I really know where it came from but it worked out for us!” Hahn said.
When Hahn was 12 years old, she was introduced to the flute when she decided to join her school’s band class. That was when she started to fall in love with the instrument.
“Playing the flute for me is just a representative of playing music. It’s not the flute necessarily, but listening to music, dancing to music, playing music, anything like that, I think it’s the type of thing that lifts you up out of the day to day mundane world,” Hahn describeds.
Hahn wasn’t nervous about performing with her school orchestra because she had participated in piano recitals when she was younger. When she was in high school and played a solo performance for the first time though, that’s when she felt the nerves kicking in; she did, however, discover something important.
“There was a hall in Winnipeg called Eva Clare Hall – this beautiful recital hall – and I was playing this lullaby piece for flute and piano and I think that might have been when I decided that I wanted to do music for a living,” Hahn recalleds. “I was really nervous going in [but] I went and I played and it went really well, surprisingly, and I came away just feeling like a million bucks when I was done – like that was so fun, I can’t wait to do that again.”
After Hahn graduated with honours from the University of Toronto with a bachelor in music performance, she auditioned for the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra in 2006 and was accepted.
“I was excited when I found out I got the job, I was over the moon and surprised and shocked and thrilled and all of those things. I had played a little bit professionally with an orchestra before but not as a principal flute player so it was sort of my first time stepping into that chair and I was terrified for the first ... three months? I was just shaking every time I was there and I thought to myself: ‘Everyone can hear me all the time. I have to sound perfect all the time.’ I had to put all this pressure on myself but after about three months I settled in and calmed down,” Hahn said.
When Hahn joined the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra 10 years ago, she had to fill the shoes of the previous principal flutist who had been in the Orchestra for over 20 years. However, that was not a problem for her Hahn as she fit in effortlessly, saidys fellow colleague and close friend Michael Hope.
Hope, who is the assistant principal bassoon, had been with the Orchestra for 25 years at the time Hahn joined in 2006, was taken in by Hahn’s quality of playing.
“All woodwind players have a healthy obsession with details. We have a type of precision with which we like to play, which is a big part of how we produce our craft. And she is excellent at that precision, I would call her an elite technician on her instrument because the level of detail with which she plays is so refined and that came through right away with her playing.”
The bassoonist likes the way Hahn plays with simplicity and how she doesn’t need to be flashy in order to produce beautiful music.
“She has a way of drawing the listener into the music itself and drawing attention away from herself as an ego and that says a lot about her integrity as an artist and a craftsman; as well as just how amazing she is as a player.”
Hahn has also done solo ventures such as performing throughout Canada, the Unites States and Brazil and being featured with the University of Lethbridge and the Kensington Sinfonia.
Not only that, Hahn has won many awards over the years, being the winner of the Women’s Musical Club of Winnipeg Doris McLellan Competition for Solo Performance with Orchestra and also the Junior Musical Club Concerto Competition in Winnipeg, which is significant because it was Hahn’s debut performance in front of an orchestra when she was only 17.
Hahn’s love of playing the flute has also led her to co-found the Green Banana Flute Studios in Calgary with Sarah Gieck, a fellow flute enthusiast.
“I actually contacted her because she’s from Calgary and she had a bit of a thing going already...The more we worked together, the more we realized we had really similar ideals and values...It didn’t start off as Green Banana, it started off as a simple partnership and grew into what it is now,” Hahn said.
Hahn’s goal is to teach her students, no matter what level they may be at, to not only become proficient at flute playing but also how to become better performers that can love what they do.
One of Hahn’s students at the Green Banana Flute Studios, Melanie Demetrick, who’s been taught by Hahn for four years, was influenced by Hahn’s calm and patient teachings.
“She’s a really positive person...and it’s almost as if she wants everybody to be as good as she is. She’ll work really hard to make sure what she’s saying gets across. If one method won’t work then she’ll have a method two, method three, method four and just keep going until you understand. She’s just that kind of person,” Demetrick said.
Even with all these accomplishments under her belt, Hahn said she wants to continue using her passion for the flute to broaden her career and to enrich her students’ flute playing.
“I would love to play [in] more places that I haven’t been or haven’t played in. I would love to work with Sarah with Green Banana, [by] playing, teaching, developing new programs, being more innovative, starting new things. Sky’s the limit, I guess!”
- By Chula Casey