30 Under 30: Michelle Blair

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Michelle Blair in Athena's Army black and white promo photo

New York, Seattle, London, L.A.? Nah, we’ll take Motherwell, thanks.

It was at the Reeltime Music organisation in Motherwell that Michelle Blair got her musical career started, and after meeting her we’re definitely thinking it’s the place to go.

‘When I first started, all I did was laugh,’ Michelle says. ‘I didn’t talk, just laugh. People would say my name and I’d laugh. But now I can meet new people and sit and have a full conversation with them.’

Michelle Blair21 year-old Michelle first got involved with Reeltime in 2010 through a workplace experience placement; she loved it so much that she kept going back, starting as a volunteer and this past year as an employee. In fact, she’s celebrating her one year anniversary very soon.

Not that working at Reeltime stops Michelle from volunteering there, too. In the last two years alone she has logged about 800 volunteer hours, which, in case you were wondering, is about the same as working for a month straight, 24 hours a day, seven days a week (don’t worry, we checked and she didn’t actually do that).

If that weren’t enough, she also volunteers for SoundMinds, an event promoting positive mental health through music that is organised by Reeltime inconjunction with the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival

We hope it wasn’t a surprise when Michelle won the Reeltime Music Award’s Volunteer of the Year award in 2013, then! She was also a finalist this year for the YouthLink Scotland Part-time/Sessional Youth Worker of the year.

At Reeltime, Michelle helps to run workshops for disadvantaged kids in the Motherwell area. But these aren’t dull, school-type workshops: at Reeltime, kids can learn to sing or try their hand at a bunch of instruments, including guitar, bass, ukelele, keyboard, and even the mandolin.

Michelle Blaire with headphones onIt’s all choice-driven, says Michelle – they try to stay as far away from the school structure as possible – and they encourage everyone to try each instrument once, just to see if they like it.
‘I love doing the workshops and seeing the impact they can have. You get people who start off shy, they don’t really say anything, but by the end of the workshops you get them out of their shell.’

Although she would like to someday go to a musical hub in America – ‘somewhere with better weather, like L.A.!’ she says – for now Michelle is about to start hair and makeup studies at the New Lanarkshire College Motherwell campus.

‘I’d like to do that in the entertainment industry, help people get ready to receive their awards.’

Of course, Michelle might also be getting herself ready to pick up an award or two: through Reeltime, Michelle sings and plays guitar the in-house My Generation band (which she now co-manages, by the way), and plays drums for the brilliantly named all-girl altrock band Athena’s Army.

A Brit award for Athena’s Army someday? Let’s make that happen. In the meantime, Michelle also hopes to be able to work at Reeltime full time someday.

She adds, ‘I would like to see more women getting involved in projects and opportunities like [Reeltime]; I definitely think more girls would get involved if there were more women leading the workshops.’

We couldn’t agree more!

Find out more about the work that Michelle does with Reeltime Music and Sound Minds on their website, and you can follow her and Reeltime on Twitter at @ReeltimeMusic and @x_MichelleBlair (and check out @AthenasArmy, too!)

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