Hannah Juliano offers key pieces of advice for young singers

Performer talks with WMS chorus before returning to Boston on Feb. 16 as part of all-star a cappella group Vocalosity


Splash photo Jeremy Daniel

Hannah Juliano (center) and Vocalosity will be performing at the Shubert Theatre in Boston on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016.

Watertown Splash staff

Hannah Juliano is a professional singer and arranger, who is currently touring the country with the a cappella all-star group Vocalosity. Hannah grew up in Southern California before going to school at Berklee College of Music in Boston. At Berklee, she joined and directed the a cappella group Pitch Slapped, which performed on NBC’s “The Sing-Off.” Hannah is currently a member of three professional a cappella groups, including  Vocalosity, who will be performing in Boston on Tuesday, Feb. 16, at the Shubert Theatre. (For information and tickets, go to http://www.vocalosityontour.com.) 

Hannah Juliano is touring with Vocalosity, which will be performing at the Shubert Theatre in Boston on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016.
Hannah Juliano is touring with Vocalosity, which will be performing at the Shubert Theatre in Boston on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016.

     On Thursday, Feb. 11, Hannah talked about all things singing with more than 55 Watertown Middle School students. Hannah spoke via Skype from a bus in Oxford, Ohio; the sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders spoke from Abby Casey’s chorus room in Watertown, Mass. Many of the WMS students will be appearing in the upcoming musical, “The Lion King Jr.”, which will run March 2-4.

     Here is an edited transcript of the students’ questions and Hannah’s answers:

     WMS: How old were you when you first started singing?

     HANNAH: I first started singing when I was 15 or 16. I started singing in the choir in school.

     WMS: What got you interested in performing music and singing a cappella.

     HANNAH: My mom, actually. My mom is a singer. She worked at Disneyland my whole life. She’s a singer and dancer at Disneyland in California. And I was watching her shows from the wings of her shows since I was literally a baby. And so I was always just enamored by performance and music. It took me a while to start singing because I was so nervous because she’s so good, so I joined the choir and I didn’t really tell her. It was kind of a surprise. My mommy is my inspiration. And she sang in an a cappella group with Deke [Sharon] actually. That’s how I found out about a cappella.

     WMS: I was wondering if you could tell us more about Deke Sharon.

     HANNAH: Deke is my guru. He’s my teacher of all teachers. He’s nuts. He’s exactly like you think he is. He’s crazy and he’s passionate, and he just breathes  vocal music. He just loves singing. He loves groups of people singing. He’s very inspired by it. One of the things I love about Deke is he’s just a teacher. Wherever he goes, he loves to get people to sing. But he’s crazy. He’s kind of like Gumby in real life.

     WMS: We were wondering how do you protest your voice from getting hurt?

     HANNAH: This is a good one! During the Super Bowl [we were at] Buffalo Wild Wings, and it was loud and we were yelling and my voice was really tired the next day for the show. It was the first time it happened on tour, and i have to specifically be really mindful of my volume because I’m a loud Italian person and I like to be loud. So I have to be really careful when I’m out in public to to not yell and  scream and be loud. And I also drink tea all the time, especially ginger tea. Especially in the cold, I’m always wrapping up my voice and making sure that it’s warm, but mostly being really mindful of it. But mostly my problem is yelling and screaming. [Laughs]

Courtesy of Vocalosity

     WMS: What kind of vocal warmups do you do?

     HANNAH: I’m pretty bad about vocal warmups to be honest, but I like to do — especially in the shower — some simple siren type things, going up and down and just feeling where my voice is that day. I like to do a couple ones that get the phlegm off my voice. you start in a vocal fry and then you sing a note and it kind of loosens up your voice. And then mostly I’ll just kind of warm up to the big moments that I know are in the show. and make sure that i have those in my back pocket. But for the most part I like to do the sirens, and just talk. Talking during the day helps more than singing — But I should get better at that, shouldn’t I? [Laughs]

     WMS: How long practicing does it take to get a song together?

     HANNAH: Practicing usually takes about a day, especially if everybody has studied their music before. That’s really what helps the most. If everyone knows their part before they come into rehearsal that’s what keeps it real quick.

     WMS: How many hours a day do you rehearse or practice?

     HANNAH: For this specifically for this show it was more of a it was crazy. we just rehearsed for two weeks straight and it was like eight hours a day, but mostly now that we have the show learned we rehearse during sound checks.  it’s about an hour, 45 minutes and we’ll kind of rehearse the things  that were kind of iffy the night before or that we didn’t feel so comfortable on.so I’d say 45 minutes to an hour, but regularly in the groups I’ve had in the past, we’d rehearse for like two hours at a time.

     WMS: Was it hard to fit in to an a cappella group?

     HANNAH: Yeah, I’d say it was kind of had to fit in at first, mostly because I was the director, so I had to figure out how to be a leader. but also when it was appropriate to be a friend and part of the group. That was kind of hard for me. But mostly the thing I love about an a cappella group that I love the most is that I can be myself with everyone. It was about being accepted by the people around you for the weird person that I am. With singers, we’re all weird people. [Laughs] We all chose this weird awesome crazy thing.

Courtesy of Hannah Juliano

     WMS: What are some of the difference between singing in a larger choir and an cappella group?

     HANNAH: There are a lot of differences. More the responsibility of your part changes in a large choir the responsibility is more to make sure that you are blending … it’s more about fitting into a specific sound. In a cappella groups that’s also there, but it’s also about the natural sound and the way you sound as a human and the way you use words and stuff and making that music. It definitely still requires blending and making sure that you are listening, but that’s the big difference.

     WMS: I’m the lead in the school play and I was wondering how you stay calm before a big performance?

     HANNAH: Mostly preparation, making sure I’m all prepped. Know that I know my lines backwards and forwards, knowing that I know all my music and stuff, knowing that I know my material so you can get off the page and just have fun on stage. if you’re really prepped, you don’t have anything to worry about messing up on stage.

     … Also knowing that you were chosen for a specific reason. That’s a big thing about confidence, like: You got it, you got the lead! And they wanted you for a reason. It’s nothing you have to prove. You get to go on stage and the people in the audience are already on your team. They want you to do well. They are there for you. They’re there to cheer you on. They’re already on your side. But staying calm, in terms of that, is trusting yourself, I guess, which is tough, but you can do it.

     WMS: Do you and your a cappella group mates have any preshow rituals?

     HANNAH: Yeah, it’s changed throughout the years because different groups do different things but Vocalosity likes to get in a big circle and we hold each other, arm in arm, and we take a couple of really big breaths together and we make sure we’re just together. We all say a little something about where we are in the country and what’s been going on in our personal lives, mostly we know what we’re here for. We’re a group. We love each other. We’re prepped and reminding everybody to have fun is the biggest thing. It’s my favorite ritual. 

With singers, we’re all weird people. We all chose this weird awesome crazy thing.”


     WMS: If you weren’t singing, what would your dream job be?

     HANNAH: Oh my goodness, probably I’d want to be flying. I’d want to fly planes I think. That’s the big thing, but I can’t imagine doing anything other than singing.

     WMS: What advice to you have for us as young singers?

     HANNAH: Singing is hard. It’s your life force. It’s very personal. and I would say as you continue to grow and you continue to change and you continue to work on it, to not take everything so personally, because if you want to become better you are going to have to hear hard tough things. But also know at the end of the day you have a gift and you have an art and people want to hear it.

      The most beautiful thing about it is that you are capable of sharing it. Singing, in my experience, is best with others, when I’m sharing it with other people, when I’m singing alongside other people I like it so much more than singing solos, because I get to communicate with other people that way. I would also say to continue to learn to trust yourself and try to to not take criticism so so personally, because it’s not going to be a stab at you it’s going to be a way to make you better. And keep singing with people. They make you better and open you up to the world. It’s just the best. It’s the best feeling in the whole wide world.

     (For more information about Hannah Juliano and to see more clips of her perform, go to her website HERE. For information about Vocalosity and to buy tickets for their Boston show on Tuesday, Feb. 16, go to its website HERE.) 

–Feb. 14, 2016–