“Swallow Hill Music has been my lifeline,” Hannah Hanson says.
A scholarship recipient, Hannah first came to Swallow Hill as part of her ongoing recovery following two traumatic brain injuries. It’s become a second home to her.
“With the amount of doctors appointments I go to, it can be hard to create a social community because you also get tired,” Hannah tells us. “Coming here, I feel like I am welcome and everyone is happy to see me. It’s really nice to have a community.”
In 2018 Swallow Hill Music awarded nearly $50,000 in needs-based scholarships to music lovers of all ages. These scholarships could not be awarded without the generous support of our donors.
“I am really grateful for the people who give donations to the Scholarship Fund because it gives me the opportunity to come here, and I wouldn’t be able to do that without their support. My budget is really, really tight. I can’t go without my voice lessons at Swallow Hill!”
Swallow Hill is committed to providing access to music education to everyone. The Scholarship Fund gives all students the opportunity to connect with music while gaining self-confidence and forming a new avenue for self-expression.
Tuition assistance recipients are able to receive assistance for as long as they meet the income requirements.
Music has always played a large and positive role in Hannah’s life, so perhaps it is not surprising to learn it’s also playing an important role in her recovery.
“Reconnecting back to music is reconnecting back to myself,” she says. Hannah took voice lessons as a kid and studied voice in college. She went on to perform in a professional choir. She has a gorgeous and powerfully emotive voice. She is also a talented rapper, adept with both freestyle and written lyrics.
Hannah suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2011, the first of several medical upheavals. After the injury she underwent heart surgery related to a genetic disorder her brother Timothy died from. Shortly after that, she experienced another traumatic brain injury.
This series of setbacks also took music from her life.
“I consider music to be my first language, and I couldn’t hear music,” Hannah says with a sigh. “”It was a really rough time, my world went black.”
Early into her recovery Hannah’s mother took her to concerts, which had always been a source of joy. It was too much for her senses to process, however, and these experiences only compounded her frustration. Overwhelmed by the sights and sounds, and her inability to make sense of them, Hannah says “I would come home and just start crying.”
Though her recovery process remains steady and rigorous, Hannah noticed the positive effects of working with Amy immediately.
“I wasn’t able to stand with my feet together without falling over. Through music therapy I can do yoga now, it’s really helped with medical trauma, having my surgery and other issues,” Hannah adds.
Hannah wanted to keep taking music classes at Swallow Hill once her grant funding ran out. Her budget remained – and remains – tight, however, due to medical expenses. That is where Swallow Hill Music’s Scholarship Fund stepped in to help out.
Over the years Hannah has received funding to not only keep taking classes with Amy, but also voice and songwriting lessons with our instructor Kim Dawson. Hannah considers both of them as much more than teachers, they are some of her best friends.
“Both Kim and Amy are really incredible,” Hannah says. “They’re angels.”
Hannah describes how in-tune both Amy and Kim are to what is happening in her life, both overall and on the days she comes in for lessons. “They really help me – I show up in music how I show up in life – and they can tell what’s going on,” Hannah says. “It’s really powerful.”
On a particularly rough day, Kim picked up on Hannah’s mood. Kim decided their planned lesson could wait and that what Hannah needed in that moment was a big, emotional, musical release. So they sang an Alanis Morissette song to get all those feelings out.
“One thing about traumatic brain injuries is that I look normal,” Hannah says. “I don’t have a bandage around my head so people could be like ‘you’re fine, you look great.’ You can have good extensions of time but then you get tired. So people just assume you’re wonderful and everything is great, but those hidden injuries are sometimes the toughest.”
As she continues in her recovery, Hannah wants everyone to know the positive role of music in her life and how that continues to help her.
“My health has gotten a lot better over time, and I honestly believe music has been a huge part of it,” Hannah says, and quickly adds she will continue on her musical path.
“I’m not stopping this, no way!”
“Coming to Swallow Hill feeds my soul. I’m relearning my language again. It’s really helpful. I’m really blessed to have found this place,” Hannah enthuses. “Swallow Hill is one of the things I am most grateful for in my life. I am so grateful.”