The Unknown Neighbor
Fate has a magical way of bringing people together. Take the case of Joe and Hannah, aka Acoustic Eidolon. In 1995, Hannah, a studio cellist, received a call to play on a Boulder ensemble’s record. Hannah listened in amazement as directions to the recording studio told her to turn on a small road near her home, and then turn down her own street past her house!
Little did Hannah know that across the street and three houses away lived Joe, the greatest double-neck guitjo player in the world (OK, the only double-neck guitjo player in the world).
A few years after they met, Joe and Hannah both found themselves between full-time musical engagements. Joe called Hannah, saying he’d always wanted to hear the cello and the guitjo together. He had a feeling the harp-like sound of the guitjo, combined with the warmth of Hannah’s cello, would be beautiful together. So on a snowy day in February 1998, they got together to play for the first time. What happened next was magic. Captivated by the music they created together, Joe and Hannah immediately agreed to clear out their schedules, start rehearsing full-time, and form what would become Acoustic Eidolon.
But, fate wasn’t finished with Hannah and Joe. What started as a musical/business partnership and friendship blossomed into their marriage on October 14, 2001. Hannah and Joe (and sons Zach and Alex) became a family. Joe and Hannah joke that this was a marriage of convenience since they were already together all the time anyway! But, anyone watching them perform can feel the love that draws them together. Their love for one another, and their passion for life, speaks through their music.
More About Hannah
Hannah was born in Berkeley, CA but grew up in Champaign, Illinois. She started playing the piano at the age of four, then begged to play the cello at age eight. There wasn’t really a beginning to her love for the cello. The cello’s voice was always a sound she was drawn to.
She grew up in a musical household. Her father played the piano. Her mother was a music instructor, and her sister played the violin. Hannah has many warm memories of musical sessions of piano trios by the fireside, and her bedtime routine was accompanied by Chopin and Liszt and Brahms piano works. Musical genes trace back to her grandparents, Eddie and Margie Alkire, who opened a music business in 1929 and thrived. Margie taught guitar until she was 90! Love of music was simply the way of life.
Hannah studied with Gabriel Magyar of the Hungarian String Quartet, and was classically trained. She took the cello seriously from the start, and played in her school orchestra with her sister Sabina, bluegrass great Alison Krauss and Alison’s brother, Viktor Krauss. She decided early on to keep the cello her passion but not go to music school, although she continued to study and play seriously. At the University of Illinois, she got a degree to teach French, English and Spanish at the high school level, and then taught for 5 years. In 1992, she moved to the Boulder, CO area.
After her arrival in Colorado, Hannah enjoyed performing in the Boulder Bach Festival, Colorado MahlerFest, and in area symphony orchestras. Eager to stretch herself, Hannah moved out of the strictly classical world. She started playing with rock, funk, and alternative groups, performing at various local venues and national events like the South by Southwest festival in Texas. She was also a founding member of the Anasazi String Quartet, whose repertoire included everything from Dvorak to Zepplin, baroque to The Grateful Dead.
Hannah stays active recording, and has been involved in numerous projects to come out of the Rocky Mountain region. It was through her studio work that she met Joe. On that snowy day in February 1998, Hannah had no idea a year later playing her cello with Joe would become her lifeline…literally.
In January 1999, Hannah was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. She underwent chemotherapy and radiation through August of 1999. During that time, she continued to rehearse with Joe almost daily. Acoustic Eidolon was a source of hope and an anchor during this challenging time. During the last several days of each round of chemo, when Hannah felt the strongest, they would go into the studio and record cello parts. As a result, the debut album, Eidolon, was finished in late April 1999, and their first tour was actually during a brief break from radiation. Each year, Hannah celebrates her cancer-free anniversary, and describes herself as “strangely grateful” for her experience. “A wake-up call of that caliber leaves you pretty much stuck in permanent appreciation mode” says Hannah. She believes life is a celebration of all that we DO have, and a culmination of all we love and are called to do. She and Joe are committed to bringing joy to as many people as possible through their music, and often add in appearances in schools, hospitals, hospices, and even chemo infusion rooms to inspire and help others.
More About Joe
As a Colorado native who grew up near Boulder, Joe was surrounded by not only the natural beauty of the Rocky Mountains but also a vibrant acoustic-based music scene. He began playing the acoustic guitar at age 12. By the time he was 14, his dad suggested he take up the 5-string banjo. So instead of learning the latest Led Zeppelin and Beatles songs, he immersed himself in Bill Monroe, Lester Flat, and Earl Scruggs. Joe excelled on the banjo, and won many contests at regional bluegrass festivals by the age of 16. Over the next several years, he was involved in various folk, bluegrass and rock groups based in the Colorado area.
At age 23, he attended the Guitar Institute of Technology in Hollywood, CA. There he studied all styles of acoustic and electric guitar and was fortunate enough to study with many of the world’s finest guitar players, such as Robin Ford, Tommy Tedesco, Frank Gambale, the late Howard Roberts and jazz great Joe Pass. During this time he also started experimenting with different ways of stringing the acoustic guitar. One of the ideas was based on stringing the standard 6-string acoustic like a 5-string banjo. This was an idea that Joe’s father suggested years earlier. With this stringing, he discovered that he could play all his same banjo licks, but on the acoustic guitar it created a whole new sound. This was the beginning of the Guitjo.
After graduating GIT, Joe toured the country extensively playing guitar, banjo, mandolin and vocals with the New Christy Minstrels, a popular 1960’s folk group based in Los Angeles. In 1985 he returned home to Colorado to start the group Wind Machine with Steve Mesple. Wind Machine toured for the next 14 years, and released 13 critically-acclaimed recordings. It was during those years that Joe along with help from Steve Mesple developed the the 14-string-double-neck guitjo. It was also during this time period that Joe began to have problems in his right picking hand…. Learn more
During the later Wind Machine years, Joe opened a recording studio and recorded Wind Machine’s last three CDs as well as many other artists in the Rocky Mountain region. Joe closed his commercial studio in 2003 due to the heavy touring/recording schedule of Acoustic Eidolon.
Joe now has a Pro Tools HD3 recording studio in their home where he has produced all of AE’s recordings.
Wind Machine ended its run in the spring of 1998. At that point Joe thought he would take a long-needed break from performing and recording, but fate had a different plan. Enter Hannah.
And as they say, the rest is history.