Creating Dreamers and Doers: Ashton Blake
Ashton Blake briefly peered into the crowd gathered at the E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall.
The stage was his.
Saxophone in hand, Blake began to play the solo he knew so well. Practicing for this day was an honor and privilege for the 20-something who was a skilled musician before he had reached middle school.
Gospel Meets Symphony was one of the highlights of Blake’s budding career. The music technology program at Kent State University at Stark afforded Blake opportunities like this one, performing with the Akron Symphony Orchestra.
“At Kent State Stark, I learned the production side of the business while also continuing to perform,” said Blake, who dreams of becoming a professional musician.
An Akron native, Blake didn’t mind the commute to Canton. “I have friends who are graduating (elsewhere) with $70,000 in debt. That’s not me.”
He credits his brother Will, also a Kent State Stark music technology graduate, with steering him toward the affordable, quality program.
During his time at the Stark Campus, Blake sought to give back as a member of Undergraduate Student Government. He helped found Flash’s Food Pantry, the campus foodbank that provides for students in need.
For Blake, the desire to help came from a place of experience. Once standing in a food pantry line, he understands firsthand the need is great. “Food insecurity doesn’t go away because you are a commuter campus,” he said, “especially for college students, who are paying the bills and for the books.”
Learning to be resourceful can often come from a place of disparity. And this 22-year-old experienced growth in his valley of uncertainty. “You can stay there in that place, or keep pushing forward.
“My family pushed forward.”
Blake carries that with him. As he pours himself into his music, the often-quiet Blake finds his voice while playing saxophone, as the notes rise and fall, fall and rise. From melancholy to optimistic. Communicating hope without saying a word.
Taking the stage to perform, “that’s when I feel it. I stay locked in until the end. Then, I look up only when I hear it.”
The sound of applause.