Anna Blanton

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The Career Development Center recently had a chance to catch up with UofL School of Music Alumnus Anna Blanton. Here are some of her thoughts to our questions! Enjoy!

When did you start your career as a musician (at what age did you develop a love for music, or know you wanted to be a musician when you grew up)?

I started playing violin in my grade school orchestra program in the 4th grade. My dad played piano and organ, so my parents were very encouraging and helpful at home. I enjoyed it a great deal and started taking lessons half way thru the school year from a great teacher named Catherine Moeller. She was a really engaging teacher, and I think the person who really inspired my love of playing the violin. I continued to play through high school as well as in youth orchestras and all-state orchestra. I think it was my junior year of high school I knew I wanted to study music in college. I was still teetering between wanting to be a veterinarian and being a musician for a living up until that point. I realized I wasn't as fond of the sciences as I would need to be.

What was your career path after college? How long did it take you to find a job?

I actually started working in arts administration right before I graduated at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts in January of 2010, so I didn't have any downtown between graduation and work. I got my foot in the door at the box office where I eventually started working full time in July 2011. Then in October 2011 I became the Development Information Manager and stayed in the Development Department until October 2014. I decided arts administration wasn't my passion and trying to balance that with an ever growing freelance performance and teaching career just wasn't working. Starting in October 2014 I have been a full time violinist and teacher. I started teaching at the Conservatory of Music in Clarksville, IN and at Sacred Heart School for the Arts in Louisville in October 2014. I've been playing with the Paducah Symphony since 2011. Other than that I do various freelance performance work through out the region.

What do you enjoy most about your current position?

I'm essentially my own boss and create my own schedule. I get to create and teach music for a living.
I've also gotten to perform with some really cool artists including The Trans Siberian Orchestra, Laurence Juber of The Wings, Ambrosia, Josh Groban, Electric Light Orchestra, Michael Fitzpatrick, CJ Vanston, and many others. Another highlight is that my band, Southern Sirens, got to open for Bruno Mars and The Temptations Review at the Congo 14 Festival. I'm also an endorsee artist of Nicola Brand Strings based out of San Francisco.I also met my husband, a bass player, in music school at UofL. Music has given me a lot of neat experiences.

What advice/tips would you give to other UofL music students?

Practice is the most important. I wish now I had taken that advice more back when I was in school. You get drilled in high school that grades and GPA are all that matter. If you want to be a performer, no one cares about your GPA, no one cares you got a C in algebra. Your music classes should always be a priority if you want to work in the music industry. Don't get wrapped up in the gen eds that don't really matter. I admit I wasn't the greatest at performing in front of my professors or colleagues in college. I never had a major fear of performing until I got into college. I would just get so wrapped up in people judging me that I lost all the joy from playing in those settings. I think I was used to far more positive feedback before college and wasn't prepared for all the criticism. You can't do that. You have to play for yourself and not let other people's opinions weigh you down so much. The feedback that you may get should be looked upon as information to make yourself better. You have to remember no one is really trying to bring you down. I finally overcame this weird temporary phobia after I graduated. So if you are someone like I was, don't over analyze how people respond to your playing.

What should students know about the music industry today?

Network all the time! The more people you know and make a good impression on the more work you will have. People talk to people. If you can't do a gig, recommend a colleague who can. Many times what goes around comes around.  Always present yourself in a professional and timely manner. 90% of the time the musician that responds the fastest in a professional concise manner gets the gig. You have to treat yourself as a business and market yourself as such. You can be the best violinist in town, but if you are difficult to work with and don't present yourself in a professional matter it doesn't matter. Throw your ego out the door, always be early, have a positive attitude, and be a good communicator. If you don't, you will have difficulty getting work.  With the internet you can pretty much do everything yourself. You can make your own website, social media pages, music distribution, gig booking. ALWAYS book performances with contracts with hand written signatures from both parties to protect yourself. Early on I learned my lessons. I've been through and heard more horror stories from musicians who don't have contracts that protect them. Get a good contract template from the get go. People's word don't mean anything now days.

What does it take to be successful in this field?

A lot of determination and resilience, a good business sense, and a prepared performance.
To be a good musician and teacher, it can't be about the money. You have to value yourself so you are able to make a good living, but you also have to care more about the music and about your students.

How should students network? What is the best way to find a job in this field?

For networking, go out to performances a couple times a week. Go to performing arts events and fundraisers a couple times a month.
I use the internet quite a bit for job searches. I also learned about job openings through colleagues and connections made through networking.If you are looking for an arts admin job keep an eye on non-profit arts organizations' websites. They usually post external job openings online.

Any advice on the job search process...resumes, interviewing, auditioning, etc.?

Proof read and have others proof read your resumes and cover letters.

Be yourself in your interviews.

Perform your audition material for as many people as possible. Also, get some lessons from experienced orchestra musicians.