If you’ve watched HBO lately, it’s likely you’ve come upon a documentary special titled “Bobby McFerrin: A YoungArts Masterclass.” Bobby McFerrin, a jazz vocalist and a ten time Grammy award winner, conducts a vocal masterclass with four very talented young vocal students. One of these students is Hannah Zazzaro, and I had the pleasure of interviewing her about this once in a lifetime opportunity.
First, a bit about Hannah. She currently is a Musical Theater student at the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. She has won more awards for her performances than most people do in a lifetime, including the National YoungArts Foundation scholarship award. It is this award that led to her involvement in the HBO special. I really enjoyed interviewing Hannah, such a positive personality, with lots of talent and energy to match! Here’s what she had to say:
TTN: Hannah, you have an incredible voice, how long have you been singing?
HANNAH: I’ve been singing as long a I can remember, since I opened my mouth and I started walking and talking. First I sang with my mom and sister, then I did karaoke, then competitions and community theater and I’m still singing!
TTN: How did you hear about the Bobby McFerrin masterclass, and how were you selected?
HANNAH: I first did the YoungArts program competition. There were nine different categories and I was a winner in my category. There are several different levels to the program. Anyone can submit to the program, they choose a certain number of people and brought us together for two weeks. I got to participate in Miami and then in New York. After that I got a phone call from my mom saying that the YoungArts program was considering me for the new HBO show and they wanted to do a phone interview. I thought that would be nice! Then I was chosen to do the show!
TTN: How long did it take to film the masterclass?
HANNAH: It took one full week to film.
TTN: What was it like and what other activities occurred that we don’t get to see on the show?
HANNAH: Oh my gosh it was amazing! This was my first time out of the country ever and they put us up in a spectacular hotel, which we were able to enjoy in the evening! We would also walk around the streets of Baden-Baden, it’s a smaller town in Germany, sort of closed in and there was so much to look at and lots to do and great things to eat. It was incredible.
TTN: The workshop was very improvisational, as a vocalist how much experience had you had with improvisation prior to this masterclass?
HANNAH: I hadn’t had any at all and it was nerve-wracking. I never did master classes like that before. It was intimidating, especially with Bobby McFerrin right there! But I decided I just had to let go to do it, so I might as well!
TTN: What was it like working with Bobby McFerrin?
HANNAH: I learned so much from him, from who he is, he is very open and free, kind and giving. He didn’t act like a star, he was very humble and extremely wise. He is like a spark of brilliance. Not only is he incredibly talented, he is a good, genuine person and has so much respect for other musicians.
TTN: Were there any surprises during the workshop?
HANNAH: It was my first time filming so I didn’t really know if it was going to be scripted or just free. Mostly I was pretty surprised about how much freedom they gave us just to be ourselves.
TTN: What is the most important thing you feel you gained from this experience?
HANNAH: I think the biggest thing I got from it was I learned to find joy and beauty in my art. I think it is really important when things get difficult and scary, but there is always going to be beauty in what you do.
TTN: So what is next for you?
HANNAH: Right now I’m at CCM and we are opening Three Penny Opera and I am playing a whore (laughter.) I am also the understudy for one of the leads, so it has been an opportunity to learn that role.
TTN: What are your long-range goals as an artist?
HANNAH: I would like to leave here and perhaps do the Broadway thing in New York, but there is also a big part of me that would love to go to LA and do film, television or even contemporary music. As long as I am performing, I will be happy.
TTN: Do you have any advice for young aspiring artists, things that might help them on their journey?
HANNAH: I would definitely say find the joy in everything you do….find joy. That is so important and has been a huge, essential part of my learning/performing experience.
(A special thank you to the Simon and Goodman Picture Company)