Lauren Blackford played her first gig in September 2020, the same week she started classes at Washtenaw Community College. One week after completing her final WCC class in early May 2023, she was in a studio recording her first EP.
In between, things came together nicely at WCC for the 20-year-old singer/songwriter from Milan.
“I feel like I really lucked out. After I graduated from high school, I knew I wanted to go to WCC because it was close to me and inexpensive,” said Blackford. “I went in knowing I wanted to do music for a living, but wanting to give myself a little bit of a cushion around me.
“Now, I’m walking away ready to jump into the next part of my life.”
A conversation with one of her instructors, Dr. Michael Naylor, introduced her to the new Arts Management certificate program at WCC. She completed that, too.
Blackford and visual arts student Fozia Ramouni, who specializes in the use of recycled media, were the first two students to complete the Arts Management capstone class (MUS/ART 295). The course was conceptualized by Naylor and taught by Rod Wallace, the co-founder of The Amplify Project, a Washtenaw County nonprofit that supports music and education.
The 15-week course allows students to create an individualized business initiative for external clients or personal artistic interests.
“The Arts Management classes and that capstone class, in particular, have been most helpful in learning how to make a business out of playing music,” Blackford said. “I feel insanely lucky that this program was created in the time that I was going to school here. I would be lost without it.
“I would encourage any young artists or musicians in Washtenaw County to check out this program, it’s been vital to me.”
The result is Blackford — a self-professed serial planner — doing exactly what she wanted to do when she was done with college: Producing a collection of songs she wrote the music and lyrics to, and playing every instrument on the recording herself.
“It’s really ambitious, but it’s really important to me to show off my skills in a lot of different areas,” Blackford said. “While I was in college, I was prioritizing live shows. As a graduate, I want to focus more on recording, making merchandise and other revenue streams.”