Artist Spotlight: Ilan Blanck

Photo by Veronica Bella

When asked what inspiration he has found from being a musician, supersenior Ilan Blanck stated, “Oh my gosh, everything!” As a double major in classical guitar performance and music composition, Blanck has experience playing in over 10 campus bands as well as almost every large ensemble at Lawrence.

“Through music I’ve found the inspiration to work on—though I’m the first to admit that I slip on so many of these—my relationships and my ability to see things from other people’s perspectives, the inspiration to set high standards for and to challenge myself, the inspiration to work out and be healthy, the inspiration to develop my ability to focus, the inspiration to learn how to be a student and teacher and the inspiration to work hard, among many many other things,” he explains.

Blanck will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in music with a double major in classical guitar and composition, though he admits that his experience at Lawrence has been defined by playing in a variety of bands. In particular, he notes that Slipstream, Porky’s Groove Machine and the Involuntary String Band helped reinforce what he was learning in lessons and classes. These different bands introduced Ilan to acoustic, bluegrass/old time music as well as contemporary classical music. Blanck greatly appreciates the fact that this exposure forced him into different fields with which he was initially unfamiliar. In addition, many of the most important things he has learned in his past four years at Lawrence were not only learned from the classroom but also from inspiring faculty and instructors who have given him advice along the way.

While there are too many professors to mention—Blanck says they each deserve their own Artist Spotlight—he would like to give special shout outs to Instructor of Music Matt Turner and Associate Professor of Music Julie McQuinn. Blanck has had the opportunity to interact with many faculty members he may not otherwise have spent time with, from coffee meetings to after-class chats. However, Blanck states that Turner and McQuinn particularly inspired him during his time at Lawrence because they “teach in such ways that push their students far enough outside of their preconceived notions about things as to break them, and I can imagine I speak for many of their former, current and hopefully future students when I say it’s hard to describe the way in which being in their classes has changed me as a person in the widest sense.”

Currently, Blanck is working on a solo piano piece with sophomore and pianist Neil Kreszki as part of a collaboration between piano and composition students. “I’m really active in playing and performing—especially my own music—so it’s always an interesting experience writing not only for someone else, but for an instrument you don’t play,” shares Blanck. Though piano presents some challenges for him, since he sometimes finds his imagination limited by what he can play, Blanck enjoys the musical collaboration and is looking forward to his recital with Neil in March.

Right now Blanck has tentative plans for post-graduate study. “I’m just not sure if [graduate school] means next fall, or in two or three years,” he says. “Hopefully I’ll end up somewhere where my love of popular music—read: playing in a rock band—and songs can meld with my appreciation for and interest in contemporary classical music and more complex forms, though hopefully none of that is mutually exclusive!” Being inspired by musicians and music itself, Blanck has enjoyed his time at Lawrence and has been encouraged to follow something he already loves doing, particularly through his involvement with campus organizations—including but not limited to The Heavy Metal Ensemble of Lawrence University (HMELU), The Sleepy Haha’s, Sarah 2 and the High School Varsity Athletes, McCarthy Co-op house, Dean’s Advisory Council (DAC) as well as many other student bands. Blanck says to Conservatory students, “Because so much of what we’re studying seems so entrenched and steeped in tradition, I think [we] can forget that we can have a big role in shaping and changing our own trajectory as Conservatory students into becoming the musicians we want to be.”