Singer and alum Eric Hutchinson speaks with Blazers
The ubiquitous YouTube page, well known to the millennial generation, fills the auditorium. The sound of excited chatter bounces around the room but when the play button is pressed, the noise fades. All eyes are focused on the movie screen. As the video begins, the screen switches to a young man wearing a humble plaid shirt walking along an ordinary sidewalk. The music video's setting is commonplace - but the young man featured is anything but average.Eric Hutchinson, the subject and singer in this music video, is a native of Takoma Park and Blair alumnus of the class of 1998. His debut album, released independently on Hutchinson's own label Lets Break Records, peaked at number five on the iTunes album chart in 2007. Hutchinson, currently the highest-charting album by an unsigned act in iTunes history, has played opening performances for One Republic and Jason Mraz and is currently touring with Kelly Clarkson. But despite the fame, Hutchinson says he has never forgotten his roots in the D.C. area.
On Friday, Hutchinson returned to his alma matter to discuss personal accomplishments and struggles in the entertainment industry with current Blazers. "I have seen both sides of the entertainment industry," he said to the enamored crowd. His tongue-in-cheek humor permeated his short speech, keeping the atmosphere lighthearted and engaging. After speaking for a few minutes, Hutchinson opened the floor for questions from students.
The most common theme of the questions was how Hutchinson promoted his music until one of his songs became mainstream. Hutchinson was brutally honest. "It took a long time and a lot of struggle," he said. "About four and a half of those [seven] years were spent traveling around in my Honda Civic."Hutchinson finally got his break when he signed onto Madonna's Maverick Recording Company. Despite this accomplishment, he was quickly faced with a huge setback. Soon after Hutchinson signed the contract, the Maverick record label folded. "When I dropped out of the label, I felt like I lost my big chance," Hutchinson said. Still, he persevered and kept writing music. "I'm a big believer in not leaving any question marks." he said. "I can never look at myself in the mirror and say I didn't try."
His luck changed again when an influential entertainment blogger heard and loved Hutchinson's music. "Perez Hilton put my music on his site," he said. "It was sort of an overnight sensation, but I put a lot of work into that."
As the event drew to a close, one Blazer asked Hutchinson to tell a story from his time at Blair. The story Hutchinson chose drew loud laughs from the crowd. "In the CAP program, they had a midterm where you write an essay that encompasses all four classes," he said with a sly look on his face. "I looked down and decided I didn't want to write it and wrote Beatles lyrics instead…Moral of the story: don't write Beatles lyrics on your final exam."Quirks and all, junior Lauren Jarvis-Gibson was inspired by Hutchinson. "Basically I'm an aspiring singer and songwriter," she said. "To me, Eric Hutchinson is a great inspiration because he grew up here in Takoma Park and went to Blair as well." To Jarvis-Gibson, Hutchinson is a kindred spirit. "It was amazing to hear him speak abut his experience at Blair also, because a few years ago he was just like us," she said. "And to top it off, he's pretty much adorable.
Junior Jeannie Javaris-Gibson echoed her sister's sentiments. "Eric Hutchinson was such a cool guy!" she said. "He is getting to be more and more known and famous, but his visit showed me how down to earth he is." Hutchinson's visit left a deep imprint on her memory. "He definitely made a good impression on me and I will never forget his visit at Blair," she said.
Twelve years after graduating from Blair, Hutchinson reflected positively on his high school experience. "This school is special and different from other schools I've seen," he said. He explained that the most important advice he can give to students is to take advantage of the benefits Blair offers. "My advice would be to get involved with as many things as you can while you're young," he said. "I'm really proud of the diversity here and the opportunities you're provided."
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