Music grad sings heart out on ‘The Voice’


Courtesy Megan Leetz

Hanna Ashbrook, a 2013 music alumna, said despite feeling under pressure on “The Voice,” she impressed herself with being in front of a camera.

By Campus Reporter

Hanna Ashbrook, a 2013 music alumna, became the second Columbia grad to be featured on NBC’s “The Voice” this season when she performed a cover of Tegan and Sara’s “Closer” before being eliminated from the competition Oct. 20.

As reported by The Chronicle on Oct. 7, 2013, 2010 music alum Sam Cerniglia was featured on “The Voice” during the second week of audition rounds.

“The people I’ve met have definitely been the best part of it,” Ashbrook said about her experience. “When I was going through the process, I didn’t think I’d be able to do it. It’s a lot of pressure, and I’m really weird in front of a camera. I was able to impress myself with what I can actually do.”

Ashbrook said the casting team for ‘The Voice’ reached out to her via email, and the team told her they selected her because they saw a couple of her YouTube videos.

The singer said she went through a private audition, and skipped the audition with the remaining cast members.

Ashbrook said she dealt with a serious case of bronchitis during her last semester at Columbia and lost her voice for two weeks, damaging her singing ability. Ashbrook was unable to sing as she had before, she said. After about a month, she brought it up with her vocal teacher, and he suggested she get her vocal cords examined. She said the doctors told her she had nodules.

After three months of vocal therapy proved ineffective, Ashbrook underwent two surgeries to restore her normal singing voice.

“The whole thing probably took a year and a half of surgeries and recovering,” Ashbrook said. “It was definitely tough, but I bounced back.”

David Dolak, a senior lecturer in the Science & Mathematics Department, said Ashbrook developed her talent while attending Columbia by performing at Acoustic Kitchen, the monthly open-stage event for the college’s acoustic musicians which he frequently hosts.

“[Ashbrook] had a good stage presence,” Dolak said. “She could tell stories about her songs.”

Derek Fawcett, an adjunct professor in the Music Department, was Ashbrook’s vocal instructor during her time at Columbia.

Fawcett said it is not unusual for students who are constantly singing to experience vocal problems. He added that he immediately sensed Ashbrook had the “raw materials” to become a successful singer and solo artist.

“In my professional experience, I have found people who win people over with their personality as well as their musicianship tend to go really far,” Fawcett said. “Those are both things Hanna has going for her.”

Gary Yerkins, director of the Contemporary, Urban & Popular Music Program in the Music Department, said he remembers Ashbrook in his songwriting classes, and her unique vocals gave her a lot of character.

“She’s very quiet and self-possessed, but she’s fearless at the same time,” Yerkins said.