Hannah Dilkes (she/they) is a multi-hyphen musician based in South East London whose varied career spans many aspects of the industry; including performance as a trombonist, providing education to the new generation of musicians, and – more recently – diving into the world of music therapy.
She began playing professionally on London’s music scene while studying for her degree in Composition with Trombone at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. Finding and making new niches for herself, Hannah became a staple in the improvisational and Balkan music worlds. After graduation, her horizons broadened further, and they continue to grow today.
Hannah’s playing credits are as varied as her taste in music, and when asked to put a label on the styles they play the answer could be described as jazz to classical and everything in-between.
Currently you can find her playing in Olivia Dean’s horn section, touring with the UK’s premiere Northern Soul act – The Signatures, and their theatre show – Northern Soul Live, which showcases some of the biggest names in the genre. She is also on the books for the UK House and Garage Orchestra, a highlight being playing to a sold-out show at The Roundhouse in Camden.
Improvisational music has always had a strong part to play in Hannah’s career, especially in the underground contemporary classical movement, playing improvised film-scores in a variety of spaces such as the Regent Street Cinema and Latitude Festival, as an ensemble member in a sound painting orchestra, and also as a solo performer – putting their trombone through a range of effects pedals.
Hannah has played in brass bands of all shapes and sizes – ranging from the hip-hop influenced BYOB, to the weird and wonderful Hackney Colliery Band, to Bollywood brass inspired Indian wedding bands, to the more traditional sounds of The Royal Greenwich Brass Band. Balkan brass will always have a place in her heart, Op Sa! Balkan Band and Mimika Orchestra were her window into the professional world, and with them she has had a whole range of experiences, from playing live on BBC Radio 3, to performing at the Royal Albert Hall, Royal Festival Hall and Royal Opera House, to recording charity singles for refugee week, to performing at an array of music festivals.
She feels very at home in the jazz scene in both large and small ensembles, ranging from duos with singers, all the way up to large big bands – in which they’ve sat comfortably on first, second and third trombone chairs. Hannah also combined her compositional and performance facets with her own grunge-jazz band, Yeoja, who played at EFG London Jazz Festival, Manchester Jazz Festival and Funk and Soul Weekender amongst other gigs in the year before the pandemic hit. Yeoja wanted to showcase the power and talent of female/non-binary lower brass players, and has a core of women at its centre, featuring Hanna Mbuya on tuba and Rosie Turton on trombone. Hannah is also available as a session musician and has played on a number of recordings, most recently Raquel Martins’ EP and with Mom Tudie working on his live versions of studio numbers.
Hannah has been stretching her performance talents recently, appearing as a regular guest feature host on Hangsang Radio, a show dedicated to showcasing hip-hop, R&B and K-Pop talents from Seoul and beyond.
As a composer, Hannah has a range of accolades under her belt. Since winning the BBC Young Composer of the Year in 2011, she worked closely with the Aurora Orchestra leading to two Radio 3 performances of original works. They’ve also worked with Max Reinhardt on a number of occasions with his instant orchestra, had pieces performed at Kings Place through women in music, and at the Jazz Café with Stompy’s Playground. As an arranger and orchestrator she has worked in a variety of settings, including for composer Isobel Waller-Bridge and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
Hannah believes in the power of music, not just in enjoyment and escapism through live performance, but also for the next generation of people. She furthers this through educational work, leading the musicians of tomorrow through one-to-one lessons all the way to whole school singing workshops. She believes everyone has the ability to make and enjoy music and works regularly with children and young people with special educational needs. She has a foundational certificate in music therapy and will be starting a Masters in Music Therapy at University of Roehampton later this year.