Hannah Polaski ‘21 discovered her passion for singing classical music three years ago — and she has not looked back since. “I’ve been singing for most of my life,” Polaski explains, “but I only really started training about three years ago.” Her love of music, which Polaski says “has always been a big part of my life,” has defined her college and career goals: Polaski wants to become a professional classical singer after college. To achieve her dream, Polaski is ensuring that her classes and extracurricular activities at Muhlenberg line up with her career goals; she has already declared a music major with a concentration in voice. “I’ve known for a while that I wanted to do something artistic in college, and music is just so much a part of who I am that I wanted to train it and heighten it,” Polaski said.
When asked to name a singer whom she tries to emulate or to whom she simply enjoys listening, Polaski said, “I’m still very new to the world of classical singing, so I don’t really know any big names.” She paused, then continued, “I mean, I love Freddie Mercury, for his big personality as well as his big voice … and all the names of all singers have just flown out my head,” Polaski trailed off, then excitedly exclaimed, “Kathleen Battle, Kathleen Battle! She’s, ah, I love her.”
“I want to be a singer,” she continued. “I’d really like to perform opera on a stage, but also being a part of a chorus is a thing that a lot of professional singers do, and that is something I find fulfilling, so I’d like to do that as well. I also play quite a lot of instruments.” Polaski has been playing flute since third grade, and currently plays bass flute, which she says, “has a lovely, deep sound.” In addition to being in two instrumental ensembles, Polaski sings in the chamber and college choirs, as well as collegium musicum, where members play “early music, like Renaissance music. I play baroque flute there and I really enjoy it,” Polaski said, trailing off slightly before acknowledging with a laugh: “I play a lot of flute.”
When asked which classes she has taken at Muhlenberg that she has enjoyed the most, Polaski replied, “I really liked Ted Connor’s Music History II. It was very interesting and enjoyable, because it was classical moving into modern music. It was a lot of fun, and for our final project I poured 97 rubber balls into a piano. We were supposed to compose a piece in the style of John Cage and I decided that a part of mine would be pouring a bunch of rubber balls into a piano. It was a lot of fun.”
In response to being asked to share her favorite piece of music to perform, Polaski named Eric Whitacre’s setting of the children’s book Goodnight Moon, as “it’s a really nostalgic book for me, and I love how Eric Whitacre uses the voice, especially the soprano voice, and I really love the setting of it. It’s a lot of fun to sing, as well as emotional to sing, and I just like it a lot.”
Although her primary focus is on her vocal career, Polaski also has a love of the theater. “I only really discovered that I wanted to sing classically about three years ago when I started to train,” she said. “I thought I wanted to do musical theater when I began applying to colleges; but then I started getting voice lessons for my auditions and we tried a piece of Mozart and I kind of fell in love with it. My voice fit it well.”
Polaski plans to declare a theater design major in addition to her music major. “A big part of why I chose Muhlenberg and not a conservatory was to be able to do multiple things,” she said. “I consider myself to also be a theater artist as well. I really enjoyed Curtis Dretsch’s Stage Lighting I class because that was my first real foray into in-depth tech.”