In the last few months, much has happened that has made clear to me that I need to focus on being a composer.  I can’t only do engineering.  I’m certainly still recording, producing, and spending plenty of time in the studio (and plan to keep doing so because I still love it and need to record my compositions), but I’ve realized that, first and foremost, I’m a composer.  

In the wake of an exhausting freshman year, unfortunately, until a few weeks ago, I had been struggling tremendously to compose anything at all.  It wasn’t that I didn’t try—I tried harder than I knew I could.  But the music wouldn’t come.  I hated almost everything I did manage to write.  On some level, I even began to hate composing itself because it took so much effort to even write things I didn’t like.

Not being able to compose and losing all the joy in it when you know in your heart of hearts that you are a composer is one of the worst things.  But even the fact that not being able to compose was so heartbreaking proved that I didn’t truly hate composing…

For the first half of this semester, I continually found myself wondering what I was thinking by being a composition major.  How could I be a composer if I couldn’t even compose?  Would I ever be able to write anything good again?  I legitimately started to wonder if I had permanently lost my composing.

But somewhere, deep down, I knew I was still a composer.  I didn’t know how or when, but I knew that someday, I was going to get my composing back.  I just had to keep trying…

A few weeks ago, the breakthrough came, and I’ve since been finding myself writing more music than ever before—and once again, finding the joy in it.  Although it seemed like I would never get over that last bout of composers’ block, I finally have.  I’m writing music unlike anything I’ve written.  I venture to say that I’m now the most prolific I’ve ever been.

And somehow, this semester turned out to be my best one so far.  I found out that a piece I just finished will be performed by one of my university’s ensembles in the spring.  While still experiencing composer’s block, I was chosen to present my piano piece “Agitato” for a composition master class with a Pulitzer-winning composer who came to my school.  I was honored with the chance to perform two different piano pieces in both of the Composition Department recitals this semester.  And then came the opportunity with Musinc.

Debuting "Agitato" in the Student Composers' Recital

Debuting “Agitato” in the Student Composers’ Recital

My conviction that I am a composer has finally been vindicated.  There is no longer a single doubt in my mind about whether I’m pursuing the right career or whether I belong in the composition program.  Now that I’m composing so much again, I will never look back.

But how in the world did I not give up on my musical gifts through it all?  What motivated me to stubbornly insist that I was a composer even when I was hardly composing?

I’m a composer.  

I can’t explain it.  God gave me a gift that is so much a part of who I am that I cannot possibly deny or avoid it.  No matter what happens on the outside, there will always be something deep in my soul that causes me to keep making music—or that at least tells me to try.

Going through an extreme case of composer’s block and subsequently regaining my composing has given me a clarity that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.  Composing is what I was meant to do.  Imagine where I can go now that I have gotten past these walls.  I see a whole new world of pieces to be written…

I don’t understand why things had to go the way they have, but surely, there is a reason that I’m composing more than ever in spite of it all (or maybe because of it)…  I’m still writing because I have a call on my life: I’m a composer.


P.S.  I’m releasing my new piano piece “Lirio” on December 17.  Stick around for more about this!

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About Shelby Rawlings Blalock

I'm a 21-year-old composer, pianist, music producer, audio engineer, and GRAMMY Camp 2012 alum. My neoclassical, self-produced piano album "Airborne" is available now on iTunes.

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