For Jake Blount ’17, post-graduation plans and pre-graduation plans have been one in the same.
As an Appalachian old-time banjo and fiddler, Blount has just finished recording an EP with fellow fiddler Tatiana Hargreaves that will be released in June. This summer he will work on a full-length album with his band, the Moose Whisperers; in the winter, he and his band plan to tour Scandinavia.
Although he has already started his music career, Blount looks forward to diving deeper into his passion after graduation. “I love the music and the vibrant community that exists around it,” he said. “I can’t wait to live my life surrounded by the amazing people who make old-time music what it is.”
Blount arrived at Hamilton with an interest in folk and Americana music, but he discovered old-time in his first year. “Professor Lydia Hamessley gave me my first and only banjo lessons, and I mainly learned to play in the weekly jam she held on campus with local fiddler Jim Stanko,” he explained.
Major: Interdisciplinary studies
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
High School: Georgetown Day High School
After writing a paper on the banjo for a class, Blount decided to incorporate music into his academics as well. He then worked with Hamessley to create an interdisciplinary major in the study of old-time music, spent a summer as an Emerson summer research grant recipient, and developed that research into a senior thesis on a unique style of old-time music that developed over the last 50 years in the nearby city of Ithaca.
Hamessley was Blount’s first and only banjo teacher, academic advisor for his major and Emerson Summer Research advisor. “She’s been instrumental in my study of this music and the deepening of my skill,” he emphasized.
In typical Hamilton fashion, Blount has been supported by the Hamilton community in myriad ways, from professors to Hamilton-specific opportunities. He provided a few examples: “Hamilton’s summer internship funding made my internship at the Augusta Heritage Center last summer possible. The money I won in last year’s Public Speaking Competitions paid for my fiddle bow. My winnings from this year’s Competitions are covering my expenses for this EP and my band’s upcoming album.”
Put simply, he concluded, “I really doubt that it would have been possible for me to advance in skill and make so many connections within the scene so quickly without Hamilton’s help.”