Rachel Blanton passed away suddenly on December 25, 2014. She was a prolific violinist and founding member of Bourbon Baroque. The following remembrance was written by Michael Hill, a friend and fellow musician, with contributions by John Austin Clark, co-artistic director of Bourbon Baroque. Her obituary can be found here.
Louisville’s music community has been forever touched and will deeply miss the quiet and peaceful nature of one of its most diversely talented musicians. Rachel Blanton was born on September 11, 1974 and was raised in New Albany, Indiana. At the age of 7 she began playing violin in her school orchestra at Silver Street Elementary School. She continued her love of music throughout her education and completed her Bachelors and Masters Degrees at the University of Louisville’s School of Music under Peter McHugh. During this time she developed her passion for many varieties of music ranging from Irish fiddle to Baroque violin and everything in between. And so her many contributions began…
As a teacher, Rachel has influenced so many young musicians in the area, having developed the string program at Sacred Heart School for the Arts where she has taught for nearly 15 years as well as recently developing the program at Montessori School of Louisville.
Over the years Rachel has performed with countless groups; it would be nearly impossible to list them all. Throughout Kentucky and Indiana, Rachel was always willing to help and collaborate with her fellow musicians. Her giving nature meant she was constantly on her way to or from a gig, but she expressed pure joy in her endeavors. In this way, so many people’s lives have been touched by her music in live performances ranging from backyards and bars to the largest venues and festivals in the area including Headliners, Forecastle, and more. She has performed and recorded with The Porch Possums, My Darling Asleep, The Pennies, The Commonwealth, JD Michaels, Dust Radio, and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. For as many lives as she touched, each experience meant so much to Rachel as well. With photos of friends and family filling her violin case, she kept and added to these memories because it made her smile each time she took up her violin.
Her long-time work with Abbey Road on the River made her an asset to their musical family, having performed and arranged string and horn parts from the festival’s beginning and going on to organizing tours with groups such as The Newbees. In 2014 Rachel contributed greatly by helping to plan a Northeast tour of a Beatles tribute concert. The twenty-something musicians that traveled together formed a special bond, forever influenced by Rachel’s kind and graceful presence. Recently, she helped to organize a set of performances in Miami, FL. The upcoming performances will surely be meaningful and heartfelt in her memory. In memory, the main stage for Abbey Road on the River has been renamed the Rachel Blanton Stage.
Rachel served as a founding member of Bourbon Baroque: Louisville’s Period Instrument Ensemble since its inception in 2007 under artistic directors John Austin Clark and Nicolas Fortin. She played an active role in its success both on stage and behind the scenes, accepting the position as treasurer on the Executive Team of the Board of Directors in 2013. Outside of Bourbon Baroque, Rachel performed in countless musical theater productions, including most recently JCC Center Stage’s “Sweeney Todd,” Sacred Heart Academy’s “The Wiz,” and Silver Creek High School’s “The Last Five Years.” Her ability to adapt and succeed in so many styles made every experience performing with her so much fun for those around and according to Austin Clark “These musical rendezvous are what I will remember most and keep closest to my heart.”
Rachel’s contributions are many and will live on in those that enjoyed performing and collaborating with her as well as those that simply enjoyed listening. The list of musicians and bands she has played with is almost as countless as the lives she has touched with her music. Many musicians are revisiting their work with Rachel and commenting on the beauty of her playing and her sweet nature, and how much that contributed to their music. It is this joy of music and spirit of collaboration and peace that she brought with her to every task that perhaps can best celebrate to her lasting memory.