Camila Blank takes on music leadership roles, selected for collegiate, advanced orchestras

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Photo credit: Meredith Ho

Junior Camila Blank practices her violin solo piece, “Saint Saens Violin Concerto No. 3, 3rd movement.” She performed this piece at the Sphinx Performance Academy at the Julliard School in 2022.

By Meredith Ho, Staff Reporter

Coming home from school, junior Camila Blank picks up her violin and begins practicing her music for her upcoming orchestra performance. Her fingers synchronize with the dynamic movement of her bow, bringing pieces to life.

Blank is a violinist, and she started to play the violin when she was 7 years old. She has now been playing for 10 years. She joined Archer’s orchestra in sixth grade and has taken on leadership roles and introduced new music to Archer’s music program since then.

Blank originally started playing the violin because she was inspired by her friend when she was younger.

“I started playing violin because my friend was, and I thought it was really cool, and I wanted to be like her,” Blank said.

In addition to participating in Archer’s music programs, Blank auditioned for the University of California, Los Angeles orchestra in 2022 and was selected to join it, attending rehearsals every Wednesday after school. Blank has performed “Overture” by Bacewicz, “An American in Paris” by Gershwin, “Rhapsody on a Theme” by Paganini and “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Fawn” by Debussy with the UCLA orchestra at Schoenberg Hall.

This is Blank’s first time joining a college-level orchestra, and she said it has been an opportunity for her to grow into a better violinist through collaboration with college musicians.

“This is kind of my first time being [in] more of an advanced orchestra,” Blank said. “It has been an opportunity for me to grow as a musician and show my biggest accomplishments with the violin.”

Blank said she faced many challenges throughout her music journey, one of them being finding a balance between her school work and violin practices during competition season. In addition to maintaining her skills and practicing her old violin music, Blank is constantly learning new music pieces and composing. 

“I’m trying to learn new pieces really quickly for competitions, but also working on other new things so that I can have a better technique in the long run and more experience, so that’s been difficult,” Blank said. 

Susan Smith has been the Orchestra Director since Blank joined in sixth grade.  Smith said she has had the opportunity to mentor and watch Blank grow and develop her skill set. 

“Immediately I was blown away by her skill level. The moment I saw her audition, I knew that I had a really special and incredible musician that was coming into Archer,”  Smith said. “She has exceeded expectations of what she has brought to our community.” 

Smith said Blank has an incredible dedication and work ethic. Blank took her skill level outside of the Archer community and not only joined the UCLA Orchestra, but the All-State Orchestra, Los Angeles Youth Orchestra and was Julliard School‘s orchestra concertmaster.

Not only is Blank a violinist, but she is also a composer, arranging music in the Music Styles and Composition class and for Archer’s Orchestra. Blank began composing with Performing Arts Department Chair Hannah O’Connor last year during the 2021 winter concert. Smith said she’s grateful to have Blank for another year and a half before she graduates from Archer. 

“What I think is so special is that she has an incredible sense of musicality,” Smith said. “You can be a really good technical player, and that’s great. But she feels the music, and she gives it her own spin. And she’s just incredibly musical.”

Blank composed original pieces for last year’s winter concert and said she looks forward to further challenging herself this year in the Advanced Study Music Composition course.

“Initially, it was really hard because there’s all these rules and theory behind it, which is really tricky to balance out and making it sound unique and musical,” Blank said. “I really had no idea what I was doing, but I really feel like the more you do it, the easier it gets.

Junior Elana Mayne, Blank’s close friend since sixth grade, said that Blank always makes an effort to collaborate with whoever she is working with. Mayne said that she believes Blank’s communication and collaboration skills help her perform more cohesively with the orchestra.

“I know she is always willing to help people, and I know I can always go to her if I need help with anything,” Mayne said. “We often give each other feedback, and that’s always really helpful to hear her opinion on my work. She always takes everything that I say into consideration as well.”

Blank’s recent music step was an audition at one of the nation’s largest performing arts centers, Spotlight LA. Blank’s audition was on Dec. 17, 202, and she performed the “Mendelssohn Violin Concerto” by Felix Mendelssohn. 

” [The] biggest accomplishment for me is when I feel comfortable playing a piece,” Blank said, “[being] musical with it, entering that stage with each piece I play, and that’s something that’s really new for me — being able to be at the level where I can take things to a more complex place.”