Inspired by the sound of the symphony orchestra, Alexander Hanna at age 13 decided to pursue a career as a bassist. Throughout his youth, after beginning music studies on the piano at age 4, he performed as a recitalist on both piano and bass and also as a soloist with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra on both instruments. In 2004, he was invited to study at the Curtis Institute of Music with Hal Robinson and Edgar Meyer.

In 2012, Riccardo Muti appointed Hanna as principal bass of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He had served four years as principal bass of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Why did you choose your instrument?

Because of its amazing, dark, beautiful sound, and I liked the idea of playing an instrument that is included in so many different musical genres. Also, I had some great friends who played the bass in junior high school.

What work are you most looking forward to performing this season, and why?

I can’t wait to play Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony (Leningrad) in May. I love the music by Shostakovich very much, and this is the only one of his symphonies I haven’t played yet. It’s always a very special and unique experience playing a great masterpiece for the first time. I’m very lucky that I get to do it with the CSO!

Describe an unforgettable musical moment (as a performer or as a listener) that you had as a young musician.

My parents took me to hear the Berlin Philharmonic play a concert in Ann Arbor, Mich., when I was 13 years old. The orchestra performed Beethoven’s Fifth and Sixth symphonies. My whole life changed during those first four notes. I never realized how powerful a symphony orchestra could be until that moment.

Offstage, I like to:

Spend time with my wife, Hanna; play with my dog, Charlie; ride my bike; practice Bikram yoga; drink espresso, and watch Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

Favorite food or meal:

My wife has many, many talents. One of her finest is cooking. It’s hard to pick which one of her dishes is my favorite, but I think it has to be her shepherd’s pie. She makes it for my birthday and other special occasions. I’m a very lucky man! Her risotto also is fantastic.


HOMETOWN: Bowling Green, Ohio.


EDUCATION: The Curtis Institute of Music.

FULL BIO here.