Brian Hanner joined the FSO as principal percussionist last fall and is about to finish his first season in the new role.
We caught up with the Tucson-based musician to learn more about his life and picked his brain on how his first season has been so far!
Q: Congratulations on winning the principal percussionist position for the Flagstaff Symphony! Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I live in Tucson, AZ and moved here in 2009 but I am originally from and grew up in Austin, TX. I spent 15 years as a Texas high school band director, which I loved but it was a ton of time and work, especially during football season, which is marching band season! The high school bands in Texas are really robust programs and so it was fun to work at a high level.
After 15 years I felt ready for a significant life change, and went to study yoga and meditation off the grid south of Tucson, AZ. I lived in that lifestyle for about 3 ½ years and taught yoga for several years. It completely changed my perspective on music for the better. I learned to enjoy playing more, and felt more embodied and present. I now live in Tucson and have been freelancing as well as managing a recording studio my wife and I own. We love living in Tucson but I am always excited to come up to Flagstaff, especially for the summer concerts when I can escape the desert heat!
Q: What excites you most about this new role?
This is my first time as the principal chair. As someone who thrives with organization, I am excited to be more involved in that part of the role such as organizing the section and making sure that we have the instruments required for each concert. My first time subbing for the FSO was in 2019 and it feels great to be fully ingrained as a member now! Charles has brought great leadership and consistency, and has high expectations, and I am eager to be a part of our continual growth.
Q: How have the first couple of concerts of the season gone?
It’s been a lot to get used to in terms of the organization since I have to decide on who plays which parts within the percussion section. It takes time to sit down and assess the music and what we need, especially in terms of special instruments. For example, for the student piece we performed at the January concert, “The Deeper Soul of Picture Canyon”, we had to get metate and mano stones, which we ended up borrowing from the Museum of Northern Arizona. In that sense, it has been a bit of an adventure.
Q: Tell us about life in Tucson. Any other hobbies or hidden talents?
My wife and I own a recording studio in town called Hanner-house records. We strive to make professional recordings accessible and available to all kinds of artists, so we work closely with them to assess their expectations and budget. I take on the engineering, mixing, mastering, and some producing, which keeps me busy. We are currently finishing up a project for the Sonoran Desert Museum which is to create a CD that is a collaboration of children’s educational songs for the museum gift shop.
Q: How did music become such a prominent part of your life?
I went to high school in Texas and was in one of those big band programs and it definitely was the catalyst for everything. It was then that I decided music was what I wanted to do. I wasn’t originally interested in teaching but realized I enjoyed it and had a knack for it. That was a great season of life and now I love performing and freelancing.
Q: What are you looking forward to as a member of the FSO?
I love coming up to Flagstaff! I am mainly excited to be immersed in this community. I look forward to watching the section grow as a team and seeing what happens there. Additionally, it has already been very special collaborating with the percussion professor at NAU, Abby Fisher. We are currently planning a mock orchestral audition for her students. That relationship to the percussion studio at Northern Arizona University means a lot to me.