Joy Blair had her career path all set. She was in her senior year studying classical voice at Austin Peay State University. But something didn’t seem right.
From the time of her freshman year, Blair says, “I think moving to Middle Tennessee made me really miss home. Bluegrass music made me think of home, so I started listening to it more and more. In the middle of my senior year at APSU, I decided to pursue bluegrass and old-time music wholeheartedly and transferred to ETSU. I’m having the time of my life learning about my favorite music.” In addition to singing, she plays guitar and is learning old-time banjo, an instrument played by one of her inspirations, Ola Belle Reed.
Blair comes from a family with a deep appreciation for the arts. “I have two older brothers who are both studying visual art,” she says, “and an aunt who makes her living as a ceramic artist, and my great-grandfather was a percussionist and jazz musician. I also have aunts and uncles in Kentucky who play music and harmonize beautifully. My family has always been incredibly supportive regarding my pursuit of music and the arts.”
Joining the ETSU Bluegrass, Old Time and Country Music Studies program has been a rewarding experience for Blair. She notes, “I recently had the incredible opportunity to be part of a recording project for the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, scheduled to open in Bristol in 2014. I contributed vocals to two tracks to be used in The Mixing Station portion of the museum.”
In the future, Blair would like to spread her wings as a musician and pursue her other interest as a freelance photographer. Currently, she says, “I am applying to Teach For America, an organization that works to close the gap between low- and high-income communities by training college graduates in the skills needed to teach in low-income areas. I want to combine my interest in music with education, and encourage students to learn about and appreciate traditional music.”
As a student who commutes from Greeneville, Blair notices all the ETSU PRIDE signs along her route. “I think ETSU PRIDE Week is a great way to welcome new students and kick off the beginning of the school year,” she says. “Stirring up enthusiasm and support in the community helps students feel confident and excited about being a part of ETSU.”