These past three months in Nashville have been a whirlwind of a semester.  While this semester started off rough, I’ve finished it having done things I never dreamed I’d be doing so soon.  But it was a tough start…

When I went home for fall break in October, friends would ask me, “How is your first semester of college so far?”

I think I took too many classes...

I think I took too many classes…

“Awful,” I’d tell them.

At the time, it wasn’t far from the truth.  I started off the semester being unwell, and as a result, got behind in my eleven classes.  (Yes, I technically did take eleven classes, four of which were “zero-credit classes,” which was another problem…)  I had no friends, because I was either sleeping, studying, or practicing all the time—and barely doing well with any of those things.  And then I failed my first exam… ever (because I was so sick at the time).  There were also many days of awkwardly walking around the cafeteria, tray in hands, hoping to find someone to sit with and then discreetly looking for a remote table so no one would see I was forced to sit by myself…  It seemed like everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong.

I could have easily thrown in the towel and come home or at least dropped some classes—but I didn’t.  When I got that exam back with a big fat D- (only not an F because of some extra-credit), I felt a fire beneath my feet.  I had failed—but I dared myself to fail harder.  I wanted to work harder than I could fail.

I didn’t come to Nashville to fail—I don’t think anyone intentionally does.  I had worked for years to make it to Music City.  I had sacrificed so much to be able to say I was having even a horrible semester in Nashville, so I was determined to make things work somehow.  I came to realize that, no matter how good you were, you wouldn’t always win at everything.  Sometimes, I was going to fall down.  But you can’t fall if you’re already on the ground—you only fall because you’re standing up and trying to go somewhere.  It was time to get back up.

Hanging out at Oceanway Nashville

Hanging out at Oceanway Nashville

In the midst of the mess, I started taking every chance I could to meet people in the industry.  Over the course of the semester, I visited eight studios and sat in on sessions at four of them.  Before long, mingling with award-winning producers and engineers and industry leaders had become a normal thing to do after school.

And then things escalated… Before I knew it, I had landed an internship at a well-connected studio—despite the fact that my school normally doesn’t allow us to officially intern until we’ve taken more audio classes than I’ve taken.  But I think that, with where I am, it would have been crazy for me to wait another year…

One day, I woke up and realized what was happening: if this was a bad semester, then it had become my best worst semester ever.  Seriously—it had been three months since I’d moved to Nashville, and I had already met some of the best producers in town and had been offered an internship that could launch my career.  On top of this, I somehow had managed to get good grades, too.  And hey, I’d even made some friends.  Who was I kidding—I’d had a great semester!

I’ve learned a lot of things this semester, but one thing I’ve learned well is to keep trying and to not quit.  I think a large part of how I’ve gotten the opportunities I’ve had lately is that I’m not afraid to try—or to fail.  I’m not always the best student in the class, and I’m certainly not the most talented engineer around, but I’ve often been one of the few who tried.  I’ve watched so many people afraid to try—afraid to approach a studio, afraid to study harder and still not do better, afraid to do things differently, and simply afraid to fail.  Yes, sometimes you’ll fail, but keep trying, and maybe it won’t have to end like that.   And who knows?  You might even get an internship.

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About Shelby Rawlings Blalock

I'm a 22-year-old composer, pianist, audio engineer, student, and GRAMMY Camp 2012 alum––a Charlottesville native making my way in Nashville! I write music for orchestra and small ensembles, but my debut solo piano album Airborne is available now on iTunes.

2 responses »

  1. Wendy Rooney says:

    See! You never know how strong you are until you are tested! We love you & are very proud of you! Get a job on “Nashville” & let me be your assistant!

    Like

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