A conversation with classical pianist, Hana Zreikat
Words By Clare Nolan
Classical musician Hana Zreikat started playing the piano when she was five years old. After high school, she was accepted into the Melbourne Conservatorium of music, and since graduating her musical career has led her in many different directions.
Hana is an accomplished singer-songwriter, composer, conductor and teacher, and she is currently working on her second album. But when she’s not busy with music, Hana volunteers with the Eltham Lion’s Club. And when she’s not busy with that, she’s the proud step mum of three school-aged kids.
Let’s meet Research resident, Hana Zreikat.
Hi Hana. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a really small country town called Greendale, about 45 minutes from Ballarat. In the centre of the town is the pub and a half-built church, and that’s about it. But small country towns have a really good sense of community where everyone knows everyone.
What was the first musical instrument you learned to play?
Piano. I started having lessons when I was five, I begged for lessons so there was no forcing from my parents. My piano teacher was a lovely woman in her 60’s who came from old country stock. She owned a sheep farm with her husband. When I’d go there for lessons, there would be paddocks and sheep and her house smelt like lanolin. I was quite intimidated by her in the beginning, but we eventually built a relationship.
Do you play music every day?
Oh, of course! People always say to me, how do you find so much time to practice? But I don’t even think about. It’s just part of my routine. It’s part of who I am.
Musically speaking, are there any hurdles that you’ve had to overcome?
After I graduated university, I lost my confidence in performance. I thought I wasn’t very good at it so I stopped playing classical piano for about five years. Instead, I focussed on teaching and being a singer-songwriter. But the cost of not playing meant I kind of lost something really personal. There’s something about sitting at the piano when it’s just me, the instrument, and the piece of music that I’m learning. It’s so cathartic. I don’t know how to put into words, but it’s so special and it’s part of who I am.
What’s the most prestigious venue you have played in?
It happened by chance, but I performed in the Vatican City. I was on holidays, and a family friend who was living there invited me to play at a conference. I didn’t have anything special to wear because I was backpacking! There was a grand piano on the stage and a huge screen with my face on it. But it was a really awesome experience.
Can you tell me about the new album you’re working on, Butterfly?
The process has been really different from the first record. We’ve been recording the parts separately, but I’ve also been working in the studio with the band. There’s been a lot of collaboration and going back and forth with ideas. It’s due to be released in July 2023.
Your song ‘I Fell’ has over 76,000 streams on Spotify! How does that make you feel?
It’s surreal! We recorded it in one take and we hadn’t rehearsed it. It was totally improvised! That’s why I’m surprised that it’s the most successful track.
Away from your music life, you’re the Club Secretary for the Eltham Lions Club. How did you get involved with them?
I applied for a grant with Nillumbik Council, but with some of their grants you need an auspice. That’s where a bigger organisation receives the funding on behalf of the person who’s given the grant and they disperse it. The Eltham Lions Club acts as an auspice so I worked with them on my application. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the grant. But during the process I learned more about them and the projects they were doing.
What are some of the things that the Lions Club does for the community?
We run a community pantry in Eltham which is located outside the club rooms. There’s a trolley outside of Coles in Eltham that gets filled with non-perishable items. Those items stock our pantry and the excess is given to Greenhills Neighbourhood House. It’s a really important project because we find that the pantry gets emptied every week. I get really touched by how much stuff is donated by the community.
Another project we have is through Eltham High School where we provide canteen meals for teenagers who are couch surfing or out of home. We also help a lot of elderly people in the community. We get requests like, “can you help me move a bed to the kerb for pick up” or, “can you help me with my lawn?”
Last question. If you hadn’t pursued music as a career, what would you have done?
Probably be a mum! I’m a homebody. I love being at home with my three young kids who are 5, 8 and 12. I love managing the family and the household – and I really love doing the ironing! But I also love to read. I’m part of the café crowd, so every morning I’m there with my journal, and my coffee, and my dog. I’ve met some really cool people doing that!