Hannah Holbrook-SOTA Alumni Spotlight: Hannah HolbrookImage of

Alumni Spotlight: Hannah Holbrook

Fort Collins native Hannah Holbrook always knew she wanted to study music at Colorado State University.

“I auditioned for acceptance into the music program because I really wanted to study with Janet Landreth,” says Holbrook. “I remember when Janet called and told me I was accepted in the music program. I was thrilled, but then I realized we would be gone the day I had to start school.”

That’s because Holbrook and her band SHEL were on the Midwest leg of their tour.

“We were touring in Nebraska, and I called admissions from the road to tell them I couldn’t make it to the first day of class. The woman asked me if I had a good excuse and I said ‘uh, my band is on tour?’ and luckily she thought it was a good enough excuse,” laughs Holbrook.

SHEL stands for Sarah, Hannah, Eva, and Liza, the four Holbrook sisters. Sarah plays the violin, Hannah, the piano, Eva, the mandolin and lead vocals, and Liza, the drums.

The girls have been writing songs and performing together since 2001, when Liza, the youngest of the sisters, was just 7 years old. They have played across the country including spots in music festivals such as Lilith Fair in Denver, Cornerstone Festival in Bushnell, Illinois and Fort Collins’ own Bohemian Nights Festival.

SHEL signed a publishing contract with Moraine Music in 2008. After they performed at a showcase in Nashville, Big Machine Records owner Scott Borchetta approached the band to sign on to his sister label Republic Nashville.

Now Holbrook and her sisters split their time between Nashville and Fort Collins.

“Working with the label while trying to do your own stuff is hard,” says Holbrook, “but the label comes first. I don’t know what’s going on half the time, one day I’m in Fort Collins, the next I’m in Los Angeles with my sisters for a photo shoot. I don’t know if it will always be this way, but I’m not complaining.”

Hannah studied piano performance at CSU for two years, but was forced to leave the program after injuring her arm. After her recovery she decided to dedicate all of her time to SHEL.

“I had such a good time at CSU, and I really miss it,” Holbrook says. “I miss the Wednesday departmental recitals and just being around people who support and appreciate one another’s gifts. Being a part of the music program reminds me a lot of Nashville. People give each other room to shine and that alone gives you a reason to be doing what you’re doing.”

Even though Hannah is no longer a student at CSU, she still gets to play in one of her favorite venues – the University Center for the Arts. SHEL opened for Los Lobos last August, and performed in a February fundraising concert for the Fort Collins Symphony at the UCA.

While Hannah misses the days she used to spend at the UCA and the old music building on the oval, she uses the things she learned at CSU everyday in her typical 8 – 5 practice and performance schedule.

“The theory and technique I learned while studying classical piano is essential in what I do every day, but what has helped me most is the professionalism that we all learned as music students at CSU,” says Holbrook. “I was taught to be proud of what I’m doing, and to do it well.”

What is your proudest musical moment at CSU?
My proudest moment when I was studying at CSU was performing two of my original songs for a departmental recital in the Organ Recital Hall.

When did you begin writing your own songs?
When I was 16 I began to compose. I began writing songs as a way to procrastinate when I was studying classical music.

What’s your favorite thing to do in Nashville?
Writing dates. You get together with people and bounce ideas off each other for songs. Some people you connect with, others you don’t. Really, it’s kind of like a first date. If you’re not connecting with a person when writing a song, you just make up an excuse to leave.

What’s your favorite thing to do when in Nashville?
Writing dates. You get together with people and bounce ideas off each other for songs. Some people you connect with, others you don’t. Really, it’s kind of like a first date. If you’re not connecting with a person when writing a song, you just make up an excuse to leave.

Visit SHEL’s website at SHELmusic.com